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European leaders call on US to return to multilateralism

This image, grabbed from the website of the World Economic Forum on January 26, 2021, shows German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking during an all-virtual World Economic Forum. (Via AFP)

European leaders have called on US President Joe Biden to facilitate multilateralism, as his administration starts efforts to return America to international agreements and ameliorate ties broken by the previous US administration.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking on the second day of the annual gathering of political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum on Tuesday, said that unilateralism and isolation were not the solutions to today’s problems.

“We must choose the multilateral approach,” she said at the forum, which usually took place in the Davos ski resort in the Swiss Alps but was held virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said the coronavirus outbreak had marked the “hour of multilateralism,” and insisted on greater international cooperation to defeat the pandemic.

Merkel praised the Biden administration for its decision to retain US membership in the World Health Organization (WHO), which has been spearheading the fight against the pandemic.

The German leader called on the new leadership in Washington to show support for the Paris climate accord and the World Trade Organization (WTO) as well.

She emphasized the importance of the WTO, saying it constituted a “key component of rules-based trade in the world.”

In similar remarks, French President Emmanuel Macron said he was in favor of “efficient multilateralism.”

He said he expected the Biden administration to facilitate multilateral cooperation.

In regard to economic policy, Macron said world leaders needed to reach a “new consensus,” one that would not play down the role of the state and the public sector like the old “Washington consensus.”

The French leader expressed hope that US ties with Europe and the world would be reconciled though Biden’s efforts to return the US to the Paris climate accord and end world crises.

“I have a lot of hopes for this new year with our American partner, which I hope is about to re-engage with us,” he said.

Other participants in the six-day e-version of the annual event included European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

Von der Leyen, for her part, insisted that “the immense power of the big digital companies” needed to be contained. She called on Biden to help draw up a common rule book to rein in the power of Big Tech companies such as Facebook and Twitter.

President Xi of China also implicitly warned Biden against following in the footsteps of the Trump administration.

The Chinese president also called for stronger global governance via multilateral organizations, and the removal of barriers to international trade, investment, and tech exchanges, as well as stronger representation on the world stage for developing countries.

The former administration of Trump exhibited a pattern of unilateralism and perceived protectionism by withdrawing or moving to withdraw America from many international agreements and organizations, often over the objection of concerned parties.

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