German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese President Xi Jinping today stressed their commitment to free trade ahead of a G20 finance ministers' meeting set to be dominated by debate on protectionism. The two leaders spoke by telephone and said in a statement issued in Berlin that they would "together fight for free trade and open markets". Finance ministers from the world's top economies are gathering in Germany from tomorrow as fears grow that US President Donald Trump could upend the global economic order with his "America First" policy. Meanwhile Merkel is set to hold her first meeting with Trump in Washington tomorrow, on a trip on which she will be accompanied by a top-rung German business delegation. Within two months of taking office, Trump has already torn up the trans-Pacific free trade pact, threatened punitive tariffs against multinationals with factories outside the United States and attacked "currency manipulation" by export giant China. White House economic advisor Peter Navarro in January accused Germany and China of taking advantage of weak currencies to build a trade surplus with the United States. In their statement, Merkel and Xi "agreed to maintain their close cooperation, in particular in the context of the German G20 presidency" this year, which will include a July summit in Hamburg. On the eve of the finance ministers' meeting, Germany's Wolfgang Schaeuble was set to host US counterpart Steven Mnuchin later today in Berlin for their first official talks. At a separate conference in Frankfurt, Schaeuble added his voice to the chorus touting free trade. "If we have learned something from the past, it is that nationalism and protectionism are never the right response," he said.
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