Merkel backs multilateral approach as Trump presidency nears

BERLIN: German Chancellor Angela Merkel is stressing as she awaits Donald Trump's inauguration that the world's problems need solving in cooperation, rather than by each country individually.

Asked at a news conference Saturday about protectionist tendencies in the US, Merkel said she will seek a dialogue with the new president.

"I don't want to get ahead of that, but I am very much convinced that we as partners benefit more if we act together than if everyone solves problems for themselves, and that is a constant fundamental attitude on my part," she said.

Underlining the importance of the Group of 20 industrial powers, which Germany chairs this year, she said that the international response to the financial crisis "was not a response based on isolation, but a response based on cooperation, on common rules for regulating financial markets, and I think that is the promising path."

Merkel has made clear that she's unhappy about the possible demise of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement as a result of Trump's desire to withdraw the United States. Trump has criticized Merkel's decision to allow large numbers of migrants into Germany.

Merkel said there are contacts "at adviser level" with Trump's team, though there was no immediate word on any plans for a meeting beyond the summits of the Group of Seven and G-20 in May and July respectively.

Merkel will host the latter summit in the German city of Hamburg.

"We'll wait for the inauguration and then we will talk about this," she said at a news conference. Trump will be inaugurated on Friday.

Merkel is seeking a fourth term in an election expected in September. Leaders of her conservative Christian Democratic Union met Friday and Saturday in Perl, in western Saarland state, to kick off the election year which also features three state elections, the first in Saarland in March.

Merkel has said she expects her most difficult election yet, though she was confident Saturday that a simmering dispute with her allies in Bavaria, the Christian Social Union, won't get in the way of a joint conservative campaign.

The CSU has demanded for the past year an annual cap of 200,000 on the number of refugees Germany accepts, an idea Merkel rejects. Germany saw 890,000 asylum-seekers arrive in 2015 and 280,000 last year.

Merkel said leaders of her party agreed "that we can live with such a disagreement."

She renewed her pledge of improved security following last month's deadly attack on a Berlin Christmas market. "We are making clear that every person has a right to security, and only those who are secure can live in freedom," she said.

Germany's 16 states must have the same security standards, Merkel said, arguing that it's not sensible for regions to have different rules on matters such as video surveillance.