When Angela Merkel and Shinzo Abe made ‘subtle digs’ at Donald Trump

Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, right, and Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, talk while attending the official opening ceremony for the CeBIT 2017 tech fair in Hannover, Germany, on Sunday, March 19, 2017. Leading edge technologies in the digital world are showcased in this annual event which runs March 20 - 24. Photographer: Krisztian Bocsi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe made indirect digs at Donald Trump’s policies as they spoke to support free trade.

While neither of the leaders named the United States government as they made the opening remarks at the CeBIT technology fair in Hanover, both used the opportunity to distance themselves from protectionist policies originating from the Trump administration.

“In times when we have to argue with many about free trade, open borders and democratic values, it’s a good sign that Japan and Germany no longer argue about this but rather are seeking to shape the future in a way that benefits people,” Ms. Merkel said.

“As G20 president, Germany feels especially committed to these principles”, she added.

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After meeting President Donald Trump in Washington for the first time last week, Ms Merkel said she hoped the US and the EU could resume discussions on a trade agreement. Mr Trump said he did not believe in isolationism but that trade policy should be fairer.

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Ms Merkel stressed that Germany was strongly in support of free trade and open markets.

“We do want open markets, fair trade, we certainly don’t want any barriers but at a time of an ‘internet of things’ we want to link our societies with one another and let them deal fairly with one another, and that is what free trade is all about,” she said.

Both leaders called for a free trade deal to be agreed upon quickly between Japan and the European Union.

Mr Abe said: “Japan, having gone through reaping in abundance the benefits of free trade and investment, wants to be the champion upholding open systems alongside Germany.”

He added: “Of course to do so it will be necessary to have rules that are fair and can stand up to democratic appraisal.”

He also said the European Union and Japan should soon reach an economic deal soon.

Ms Merkel welcomed his comments, saying: “It’s very, very good that Japan says we want a free trade agreement, we want it soon because that could be the right statement and Germany would love to be a driving force behind this.”

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