Merkel and Macron Push for Return to Pre-Trump Cooperation

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The leaders of Germany and France separately called for governments to work more closely together, signaling their hope that the end of Donald Trump’s four-year term in the U.S. will herald the return of transatlantic collaboration.

A week after Joe Biden’s inauguration, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron used virtual addresses to the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda to talk up the value of international cooperation and to push for coordinated action on issues ranging from digital taxation to trade and climate change.

“This is the hour of multilateralism,” German Chancellor Merkel said. “We see that in such an existential case the attempt to isolate fails long term — at least in relation to this pandemic it failed.”

The German leader, who regularly clashed with Trump’s America First doctrine, said it was an “important sign” that the U.S. is rejoining theWorld Health Organization and called on President Biden to unblock the World Trade Organization.

It was a theme picked up by France’s president, Macron, who said that multilateralism “was blocked by the U.S. administration that didn’t believe in it” under Trump.

“I have great hopes this year, with a U.S. partner who I hope will come back,” he said. “We need to build an efficient multilateral system that will allow a new consensus.”

Merkel wants the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development to quickly reach an agreement on digital taxation and called for a global antitrust regime to tackle cross-border competition issues, while Macron welcomed the U.S.’s new commitment to the Paris climate accord.

In a telephone call between Biden and Macron on Sunday, the two men covered issues from NATO to climate change. When the new U.S. president spoke to Merkel on Monday, Biden spoke of his intent to “revitalize the transatlantic alliance, including through NATO and with the European Union,” according to a White House readout. Merkel invited Biden to visit Germany once pandemic-related travel restrictions ease.

Multilateralism, and in particularly cooperation between the EU and a post-Trump U.S., was a theme explored by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during her Davos address earlier in the day.

“The challenges to our democracy, the pandemic, climate change — in his inauguration speech President Joe Biden so aptly spoke of a cascade of crises and, indeed, we face an outstanding set of challenges,” von der Leyen said. “But we can meet them if we work together; that is what we all have to learn again after four long years.”

She spoke in particular about thedifficulties posed to democracy and freedom of speech by social media and said she wanted Europe and the U.S. to join forces to “create a digital economy rulebook that is valid worldwide.”

— With assistance by Iain Rogers, and Arne Delfs

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