In call with Trump, Merkel urges EU-U.S. dialogue on trade

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for dialogue on trade policy between the European Union and the United States in a telephone call with U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday.

Trump last Thursday temporarily excluded the EU, the United States’ biggest trading partner, and six non-European countries from higher U.S. import duties on steel and aluminum.

“The chancellor called for a dialogue process between the European Union and the United States on trade policy, taking into account the rules-based international trade system,” German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement.

Seibert said Merkel and Trump had also affirmed their solidarity with Britain following a nerve gas attack that targeted a former Russian double agent in England.

Britain has blamed Russia for the attack, something Moscow denies. The United States, Germany and a number of other countries have followed Britain in expelling Russian diplomats over the attack.

“(Trump and Merkel) welcomed the coordinated action of European states and NATO allies as a strong signal of unity towards Russia’s behavior,” Seibert said.

Merkel’s relationship with Trump got off to a frosty start after his election.

Before a phone conversation on March 1 to discuss the war in Syria and Russian nuclear arms, the two leaders had not spoken to each other in more than five months.

However, the two leaders reaffirmed their wish for their governments to cooperate closely, Seibert said. During their phone call, the two leaders also discussed the situation in Syria and with North Korea.

Reporting by Paul Carrel, editing by Emma Thomasson and Gareth Jones