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Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron pledge to strengthen ties in first phone call

Joe Biden and Emmanuel Macron pledge to strengthen ties in first phone call

Biden has spoken with leaders of Mexico, Canada, UK, and now France

Griffin Connolly
Washington
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Joe Biden spoke on Sunday with French President Emmanuel Macron, expressing his desire to strengthen bilateral ties, the White House said, as the president made the traditional ally one of the first countries contacted during his first days in office.

The White House statement also said that Mr Biden stressed his commitment to bolstering transatlantic relations through NATO and the US partnership with the European Union.

 

Mr Macron is the fourth world leader the new Democratic president has called since taking office last Wednesday.

His first two calls were to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Friday evening.

Mr Trudeau expressed to Mr Biden his disappointment with the American president’s decision last week to nix construction of the Keystone XL pipeline that runs from the tar sands of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico off the US southern coast. But the North American leaders had a productive overall conversation on climate change, the ongoing response to the coronavirus pandemic, and trade.

“It’s not always going to be perfect alignment with the United States,” Mr Trudeau said last week. “That’s the case with any given president, but we’re in a situation where we are much more aligned on values and focus. I am very much looking forward to working with President Biden.”

Mr Biden later had a phone conversation with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in which the two expressed a mutual desire to reach a bilateral trade deal in the coming years.

Mr Johnson is eager to reach that deal as soon as possible, with the UK now in charge of its own trade policy following the post-Brexit transition.

Mr Biden’s White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Mr Biden’s immediate focus is not on international trade deals, but working towards passage in Congress of his $1.9trn Covid relief proposal.

‘Together we are stronger’ – Germany bets on better U.S. ties under Biden

'Together we are stronger' - Germany bets on better U.S. ties under Biden

 
Michael Nienaber
 
 

By Michael Nienaber

BERLIN (Reuters) – German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Joe Biden agreed in a phone call on Monday that the COVID-19 pandemic and other global challenges could only be tackled through closer cooperation, a government spokesman in Berlin said on Monday.

Separately, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz welcomed the confirmation of Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary by the U.S. Senate, voicing hope she could bring progress in reaching an international agreement on corporate taxation.

 

“Congratulations to the United States for making this outstanding choice! Janet Yellen is a very impressive person,” Scholz said, adding that he was looking forward to working with Yellen, the former chair of the Federal Reserve.

Transatlantic relations cooled under former President Donald Trump, who attacked Germany repeatedly for its export strength and its relatively low NATO defence spending.

After bruising meetings of the G7 group of wealthy nations and NATO with Trump in 2017, Merkel said that Europe could no longer completely rely on its allies and that the continent must become more independent.

In their first phone call since Biden took office, Merkel congratulated him on his inauguration. “At the same time, she declared Germany’s willingness to take on responsibility in dealing with international tasks together with its European and transatlantic partners,” the government spokesman said.

Merkel and Biden agreed that more international efforts were needed to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. “In this context, the Chancellor welcomed the return of the United States to the World Health Organization,” the spokesman added.

The two leaders also spoke about foreign policy issues, particularly those relating to Afghanistan and Iran, and Merkel welcomed Biden’s decision to return the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement.

In a readout of the call, the White House said the two leaders agreed on the “importance of global cooperation,” including on fighting climate change, containing the pandemic and pursuing a stable global economic recovery.

Biden told Merkel he intends to revitalise the transatlantic alliance, the White House said.

‘NATURAL PARTNERS’

The United States is Germany’s most important export market outside the European Union, but trade ties deteriorated under Trump, who increased import tariffs on some European goods.

Scholz told Reuters that Europe and the United States were natural partners, as both shared the same values. “I am convinced that together we are stronger. Together we can achieve more for our citizens,” he said.

For Berlin, key issues on the agenda in the coming months are the taxation of the digital economy and a global minimum effective tax for companies.

“I am counting on making decisive progress and reaching an agreement at OECD level this summer,” Scholz said. “The coronavirus pandemic is showing us once again how important it is for all companies to pay their fair share.”

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development outlined last year the first major rewriting in a generation of international rules for taxing cross-border businesses such as Alphabet’s Google, Apple and Facebook.

Nearly 140 countries involved in the talks agreed in October to keep negotiating until mid-2021 after discussions stalled as Washington became reluctant to sign up to an international deal ahead of the presidential election.

(Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Alex Richardson and Rosalba O’Brien)