January 24, 2018 | By: JAMEY KEATEN AND PAN PYLAS
European leaders came to the defense of free trade and global cooperation on Wednesday, laying out a vision meant to counterbalance what many perceive as a rise in the more brash, nationalistic policies of U.S. President Donald Trump.
Trump’s expected arrival to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday overshadowed the event and many government leaders rushed to take a stance in contrast with Trump’s policies, particularly his move to revise free trade deals and drop out of a global climate change pact.
“We believe that isolationism won’t take us forward,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the elite gathered in the snowy Alpine town. “We believe that we must cooperate, that protectionism is not the correct answer.”
Merkel stressed there is too much “national egoism” at the moment and that the World Economic Forum’s motto of “creating a shared future in a fractured world” was “exactly right” for 2018.
Concerns that the U.S. is turning its back on the globalization — which many credit with increasing wealth but also creating inequality — were accentuated this week, when Trump backed new tariffs on imported solar-energy components and large washing machines. His combative commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, conceded Wednesday that China could respond by imposing its own tariffs on U.S. products.
“There’s always potential for retribution or retaliation and that’s up to the Chinese to decide,” Ross told journalists as part of the largest-ever U.S. delegation to Davos. He warned that the U.S. itself could respond to any retaliation from Beijing.
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