Abe, Merkel stress free trade

Tokyo: In an attempt to strengthen trade relations, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and visiting German Chancellor Angela Merkel here on Monday advocated free trade as a free-trade pact between Japan and the European Union (EU) went into effect on Friday.

“Japan and Germany will closely work together to maintain and strengthen a free and open economic system,” Abe said in a joint press conference after his meeting with Merkel who arrived here on Monday for a two-day visit, Xinhau news agency reported.

The free-trade agreement with Japan will “send an important signal to the world,” Merkel said.

The two leaders also discussed the impact of Britain’s exit from the EU, of which Germany is a major member.

In consideration of the Japanese companies operating in Britain, the Japanese PM said said he told the German Chancellor that a divorce without a departure deal should be avoided to prevent negative influences on the global economy.

Britain’s House of Commons voted in January to reopen negotiations with the EU over the departure deal. The UK is scheduled to leave the regional bloc on March 29.

Germany does not want to renegotiate the deal, but the issue will not move further without Britain stating what it wants, Merkel said.

Abe and Merkel also agreed to promote development of cutting-edge technologies.

The two countries confirmed their cooperation for the Group of 20 summit, scheduled to take place in Osaka, Japan, in June, which Abe will chair and Merkel is likely to attend.