FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Germany’s finance minister warned against following a “Europe First” policy and said it was unclear whether the European Union would reach a Brexit agreement with Britain.
European policies should promote the region’s business and industry, Olaf Scholz told bankers at a conference in Frankfurt. However, that does not mean protectionist measures that block non-European companies from doing business on the continent.
“But not `Europe First’. That doesn’t work for those who try it on their continents,” Scholz said, apparently a reference to U.S. President Donald Trump’s conflicts with U.S. trading partners.
Such policies “must exercise our potential but in no way because we think we need to be No. 1, but because we want to be among the front-runners.”
Scholz’s comments come as the global economy is confronted with uncertainties like trade and Britain’s quickly approaching exit from the EU.
Scholz said he would do everything to ensure an exit agreement with Britain but that it was difficult to say if one would be reached.
Germany needs a strong financial sector to support the country’s export industry, he said.
Scholz also said he believed a large part of euro clearing would move to mainland Europe and Frankfurt over time after Britain quits the EU. Currently, clearing is centred in London.
Reporting by Tom Sims; editing by Paul Carrel, Larry King