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German finance minister calls on US to stay engaged in global economy


German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble issued a plea to the United States to remain engaged in the global economy and not to try to score gains at the expense of other countries.

He also repeated a rejection of charges from Trump administration officials that Germany's trade surplus is a sign of unfair policies imposed in Berlin.

"All of us have benefited greatly" from global integration and trade in recent decades, and Washington has been a leader in the process, the official said in a speech ahead of this week's semi-annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

The Trump administration's antagonistic protectionist rhetoric has created a tense atmosphere at the usually staid meetings of the IMF membership, and drawn a growing chorus from officials defending the global trading system, while acknowledging that some segments of society have not seen its benefits and have borne an unfair share of the costs.

"Surely it's in America's own interest to ensure security and economic stability" in its trade partners, Schaeuble said.

And while he said it is legitimate for a government to look out for its own interests, he warned Washington that "peace and prosperity in one country cannot come at the cost of peace and prosperity in another country."

Trump economic officials have focused on attacking individual countries for their trade surplus with the United States rather than looking at global trade more broadly.

Germany also will chair a gathering of the Group of 20 finance ministers and central bankers Friday, where currencies and trade are a regular part of the agenda.

Schaeuble acknowledged that the relatively weak euro has helped German exports, as Trump administration officials have charged, but he blamed the low interest rates and other extraordinary stimulus measures the European Central Bank has implemented to boost the euro area's sluggish economy.

Having warned the ECB at the outset that such policies would boost German exports, "I do not now want to be criticized for the consequences," he said.

Schaeuble said he has met with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and explained that Germany's trade surplus is the result of the high quality of the nation's exports, not protectionism, saying there are "no sensible measures" that would reduce the surplus.

But he said he is glad to hear the ECB is beginning to discuss following the example of the US Federal Reserve in removing some of the stimulus, which can drive risky behavior in financial markets in addition to influencing the value of the euro.

He also said that global cooperation has put in place rules to try to prevent the behavior that caused the crisis, warning that those lessons should not be forgotten.