German Chancellor Angela Merkel called on world leaders to work more closely together to overcome the coronavirus pandemic, which she said will influence people’s lives for years to come.
The global crisis underscored the value of international cooperation and the limits of nationalism, Merkel said Tuesday in a virtual address to the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda event, pushing for coordinated action on issues from digital taxation to trade.
“This is the hour of multilateralism,” she said. “We see that in such an existential case the attempt to isolate fails long term — at least in relation to this pandemic it failed.”
The German leader, who regularly clashed with Donald Trump’s America First doctrine, said it was an “important sign” that the U.S. is rejoining the World Health Organization and called on President Joe Biden to unblock the World Trade Organization.
She also wants the OECD to quickly reach an agreement on digital taxation and called for a global antitrust regime to tackle cross-border competition issues.
In a telephone call with the German leader Monday, Biden spoke of his intent to “revitalize the transatlantic alliance, including through NATO and with the European Union,” according to a White House readout. Merkel invited Biden to visit Germany once pandemic-related travel restrictions ease.
Multilateralism, and in particularly cooperation between the EU and a post-Trump U.S., was a theme explored by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during her Davos address earlier in the day.
“The challenges to our democracy, the pandemic, climate change — in his inauguration speech President Joe Biden so aptly spoke of a cascade of crises and, indeed, we face an outstanding set of challenges,” von der Leyen said. “But we can meet them if we work together; that is what we all have to learn again after four long years.”
She spoke in particular about the difficulties posed to democracy and freedom of speech by social media and said she wanted Europe and the U.S. to join forces to “create a digital economy rulebook that is valid worldwide.”
Merkel has been sounding the alarm over faster-spreading mutations of the coronavirus, pushing for tougher measures even as infection rates decline. Prolonged lockdowns and a sluggish vaccine rollout are clouding the German leader’s final months in office before she steps down after September elections.
“The pandemic leaves deep traces in our economy and society,” she said. “That will certainly determine our lives in coming months and years.”
— With assistance by Ian Wishart, and Iain Rogers
(Updates with von der Leyen comments from ninth paragraph)