Germany, U.S. have mutual interest in reducing trade barriers: German EconMin

New appointed Economy Minister Zypries attends the weekly cabinet meeting in Berlin

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries has written to U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross stressing that it would be in both countries’ interests to minimize the barriers to trade between them.

U.S. President Donald Trump has championed protectionism with his “America First” campaign but German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany will work to promote free trade during its presidency of the G20 this year.

In a letter dated Feb. 28, Zypries wrote that Germany, the European Union and the United States should step up cooperation in light of major changes in the global economy’s structure.

“We have a shared interest in reducing trade barriers to transatlantic trade and agreeing in a suitable form on the standards that can be disseminated throughout the world economy,” she wrote.

The German government, industry groups and unions have said protectionism is the wrong answer to the challenges facing the world, and that Germany must fight to safeguard free trade, which guarantees wealth and prosperity for all.

Zypries also stressed the importance of the transatlantic relationship, saying it was a “central, steadfast component of German policy”, and pointed to the close economic relationship between Germany and the United States.

She said around 670,000 jobs in the United States were a result of investment from Germany. Direct investment from Germany, Europe’s largest economy, was worth around $256 billion in 2015, she said.

A source in the Economy Ministry confirmed a report in German newspaper Handelsblatt saying that Zypries had met with representatives of Germany’s business organizations on Wednesday to talk about the possible impact of future U.S. policy.

Germany’s BDI industry association, the DIHK Chambers of Industry and Commerce, the BGA trade association, German auto industry association VDA, German chemicals trade group VCI and the American Chamber of Commerce took part in the meeting, the source said.

“All participants agree that we need to campaign for free trade,” the source said.

Zypries has said she will travel to the United States but has not yet named the date. The source said the ministry was currently planning for her to go in May.

(Reporting by Matthias Sobolewski and Klaus Lauer; Writing by Michelle Martin; Editing by Catherine Evans)