Biden, Merkel vow to defend democratic values amid China’s rise – The Foreigners magazine In tokyo
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Biden, Merkel vow to defend democratic values amid China’s rise

Written by on July 16, 2021

U.S. President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday affirmed their commitment to defend democratic principles amid concerns over China’s rising influence and allegations of human rights abuses.

“We will stand up for democratic principles and universal rights when we see China or any other country working to undermine free and open societies,” Biden told a joint press conference with Merkel following their talks at the White House.

U.S. President Joe Biden (R) and German Chancellor Angela Merkel hold a joint news conference at the White House in Washington on July 15, 2021. (Getty/Kyodo)

The two leaders also released a “Washington Declaration” highlighting their commitment to defending an “open world” free from coercion or domination by outside powers, as well as to responding in concert to violations of human rights everywhere.

The unity showcased by the two leaders signaled an improvement in bilateral ties that had become strained under Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump. With his “America First” mantra, Trump had repeatedly criticized Germany over trade deficits and insufficient defense spending as a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

But differences apparently remain between the two countries on the level of toughness in dealing with Beijing. China was Germany’s most important trading partner in the volume of goods in 2020 for the fifth consecutive year, according to Germany’s Federal Statistical Office.

During the press conference, Merkel said through a translator that Germany and the United States will make their “voices heard” wherever human rights are not guaranteed and that the two countries will support the “territorial integrity of all countries of the world.”

She also said trade with China needs to “rest on the assumption that we have a level playing field so that we all play by the same rules,” but also noted that the two leaders talked about the “many facets of cooperation, and also of competition with China,” be it in the economic area or climate change.

Biden, meanwhile, said he agreed with Merkel to continue to stand together to defend against Russian aggression, while reiterating his concerns over a natural gas pipeline being built from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea that is feared to give Moscow leverage over Europe’s energy market.

Merkel became the first European leader to visit the White House to hold talks with Biden in person since he took office in January. Her trip to the U.S. capital is believed to be her last before she ends her 16-year tenure as German chancellor in September.

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