Merkel: “EU couldn’t hope for a better partner than the U.S.”


obama, hollande merkel cameronGerman Chancellor Angela Merkel Saturday expressed strong support for a trans-Atlantic free-trade agreement between the U.S. and the European Union, arguing it will help to boost Germany’s export strength.

She also called on the EU and the U.S. to close ranks and speak with one voice in their efforts to help solve the political crisis in the Ukraine.

“Despite all difficulties…the chances offered by such a trade accord are much bigger than the risks,” Ms. Merkel said at a news conference following a meeting of her Christian Democratic Union’s federal board.

“It will pay off to do our utmost for creating a big trade zone with fewer barriers. If we want to be strong economically, we need such trade partnerships.”

Ms. Merkel was commenting publicly for the first time on the leaked recording of a conversation between America’s top diplomat to Europe, Victoria Nuland, and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt where they discussed the situation in Ukraine and the possible help from the United Nations in approving a new coalition government.

Toward the end of the recording posted on YouTube, as Ms. Nuland said “F- the EU.”

While stressing that the European Union and Germany “couldn’t hope for a better partner than the U.S.”, Ms. Merkel also said a united approach on Ukraine is crucial.

“We have to do everything that helps create trust, because everything that damages trust is also damaging the relations with other countries,” she told reporters after a meeting with senior officials from her Christian Democratic Union party. “We actually want absolutely the same in the Ukraine…as regarding what should happen in the Ukraine and regarding civil rights and democracy.”

She said that if differences in nuances exist, “we must openly talk about it but I can only say that it’s of the utmost common interest to the people in Ukraine that we appear there united and support the democratic process.”

Ms. Merkel also defended Germany’s position that sanctions against Ukraine wouldn’t help to achieve the desired results. She will continue to talk with Ukraine government, including President Viktor Yanukovych, as well as the opposition in order to bring about a transformation process “that’s as peaceful as possible.”

“Of course, we consider other options if this doesn’t succeed,” Ms. Merkel said.

Her party issued a declaration here Saturday, to conclude a two-day meeting that mostly focused at the coming European parliament elections and the government’s agenda for the next year.

The party’s federal board called on the Ukraine government to safeguard human rights and boost the country’s economy while also threatening with possible sanctions against individuals.

“Should Ukraine leaders continue to deny fundamental civil rights, we will advocate for the international community of states to adopt sanctions for individual suppressors,” the statement said.

Meanwhile on the trade issue, the planned Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, known as TTIP, has come under fire as critics fear it focuses too much on economic interests at the expense of data security, environmental standards and consumer protection.

Companies, such as Germany’s Siemens AG SIE.XE +0.46% , however, argue it is a win-win situation because it would help reindustrialize the U.S. and help rebuild Europe’s competitiveness.

Germany is the world’s third-largest exporter of goods. The next round of talks between the U.S. and the EU is set for March.