April 5, 2017 / 10:18 AM / 4 months ago

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

Conservative Christian Democratic Union party CDU parliamentary floor leader Volker Kauder attends the CDU party convention in Essen, Germany, December 7, 2016.Kai Pfaffenbach

BERLIN (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.

The White House said in a statement Trump was scheduled to speak to Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe by telephone later on Wednesday but gave no further details.

Kauder also said that Abe and opposition parties viewed the importance of securing a trade deal 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 the EU and Japan should try to resolve the outstanding issues, and that meant in Japan, convincing farmers. He 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.

Additional reporting by Susan Heavey in Washington; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Alison Williams and Pritha Sarkar

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