US, Europe need to develop joint strategy on China, Russia: German Chancellor

Berlin: German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for the United States and Europe to find a joint strategy to deal with China and Russia and also stressed the need for dialogue with these two countries.

Taking to the stage at the 2021 Munich Security Conference (MSC) on Friday after the address by US President Joe Biden, Merkel said that China has gained more power on the international stage and the transatlantic alliance needs to react to the development. "We need to address that," she said.

"In recent years, China has gained global clout, and as trans-Atlantic partners and democracies, we must do something to counter this," Merkel said at the MSC, an annual conference on international security policy that has taken place in Munich since 1963. This year it was held virtually due to the Covid pandemic.

The German head of state noted that dealing with China and Russia is "perhaps more complicated" as Beijing is both a competitor but a necessary partner of the West.

"China, on the one hand, is a competitor, but on the other hand we need China to settle global problems such as climate change, biodiversity and others," the chancellor said.

According to European Union statistics released on Monday on Eurostat, China has overtaken the US as the EU's top trading partner in 2020. The EU inked an investment deal with China earlier this year, while US tariffs put in place during the Trump administration remain under Biden.

In her address, Chancellor Merkel also accused Russia of causing "hybrid conflicts" and said "We have not really made progess in recent years "Russia continually entangles European Union members in hybrid conflicts...Consequently, it is important that we come up with a trans-Atlantic agenda toward Russia that makes cooperative offers on the one hand, but on the other very clearly identify the differences," Merkel said.

She said she agreed with Biden on his criticism of Russia working to destabilize the EU, a block of 27 member countries.

The German head of state also highlighted the importance of the COVAX program, especially in light of the distribution of Chinese and Russian vaccines in developing countries.

"Everyone in the world has to be vaccinated quickly," she stated adding that if not done "no one will have the chance to be safe" from the coronavirus.

She reiterated her hope for multilateralism. "Multilateralism is the basis of everything we do," she said.

According to a report by The New York Times, among the other issues that she listed as most pressing included fighting terrorism in Africa and reviving stalled diplomatic talks in Ukraine.

The German Chancellor lauded US President Biden's decision to return to the Iran nuclear agreement, which was abandoned by former President Donald Trump in 2018 who imposed harsh sanctions on the country. "I hope that this agreement can be given another chance," she said.

Earlier at the Summit, Biden said that United States, Europe, and Asia should work together to "secure peace and defend our shared values and advance our prosperity across the Pacific will be among the most consequential efforts we undertake".

"You know, we must prepare together for long-term strategic competition with China. How the United States, Europe, and Asia work together to secure peace and defend our shared values and advance our prosperity across the Pacific will be among the most consequential efforts we undertake. Competition with China is going to be stiff. That's what I expect, and that's what I welcome, because I believe in the global system Europe and the United States, together with our allies in the Indo-Pacific, worked so hard to build over the last 70 years," he said.

"US and European companies are required to publicly disclose corporate governance -- to corporate governance structures and abide by rules to deter corruption and monopolistic practices. Chinese companies should be held to the same standard," Biden said.

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