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Praising Macron, Merkel says Germany’s hands tied on trade surplus

Germany wants to help President-elect Emmanuel Macron tackle French unemployment, Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Monday, but rejected suggestions that her country should do more to support Europe’s economy by cutting its trade surplus.

Merkel congratulated Macron on Sunday’s “spectacular” election victory and said he “carried the hopes of millions” in France and Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

“He ran a courageous pro-European campaign, stands for openness to the world and is committed decisively to a social market economy,” she told a news conference.


She welcomed his commitment to continued economic reforms and said bilateral cooperation remained a cornerstone of German foreign policy.

“I’d like to help, especially with lowering the unemployment rate in France,” she said.

But reducing Germany’s persistently high trade surplus was more problematical.

“A part of the export surplus is linked to the quality of our products,” Merkel said when asked about suggestions made during the French presidential campaign that Germany needed to help Europe’s economic laggards by importing more.

“Another part of it is linked to the policies of the European Central Bank which we can’t influence,” Merkel added. “Wage increases are now exceeding productivity growth and if you look at the forecasts, the …surplus will fall slightly in coming years.”

Merkel said Macron was expected to visit Germany quite soon and she would wait to hear his proposals for how to strengthen France’s role in Europe.