April 5, 2017 / 10:13 AM / 6 months ago

Merkel ally, in Tokyo, pushes for swift EU trade deal with Japan

BERLIN, April 5 (Reuters) - A senior ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel pressed Japan on Wednesday to quickly seal a trade deal with the European Union, especially in light of protectionist signals coming from U.S. President Donald Trump.

Volker Kauder, head of Merkel’s conservative parliamentary group, said he was encouraged by his talks with Japanese government and opposition officials during a visit to Tokyo.

“Talks about a free trade deal between the EU and Japan must be completed fast. In view of the isolationist policies of U.S. President Trump, the time for hesitation is gone,” Kauder said in a statement after his meetings in Japan.

Trump has worried countries like Germany with talk of imposing import taxes. The Group of 20 powers even failed to agree on a commitment to keep global trade free and open at a meeting in Germany last month, due to U.S. opposition.

He added that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and opposition parties also viewed that matter in the same way.

“I have the impression that the Japanese side is now trying to get a quick deal after years with no breakthrough but rather a standstill in the talks,” he said, adding Abe had stressed it would send an important signal amid growing protectionism.

He said both sides should try to resolve the outstanding issues, and that meant in Japan, convincing farmers and also warned that China was ready to try to impose its own agenda on free trade if the United States stepped away from that role.

“There is a risk that China will try to push through its ideas about free trade rules. The EU, Germany and Japan should not stand by and watch this happen but make their standards a benchmark for global trade,” said Kauder. (Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Alison Williams)

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