The Latest: Merkel says right-wing populism is 'a poison' | News & Observer

The Latest on the World Economic Forum in Davos (all times local):

3:15 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says right-wing populism in Europe is a "poison" that is driven by unresolved problems.

In Germany, the nationalist, anti-migrant Alternative for Germany party won seats in parliament for the first time in September, and similar populist parties have also grown strong in France, Netherlands and elsewhere.

Merkel said Wednesday that she hoped support would not rise further for such parties, and that her government is trying to get right-wing populism "under control, but it is a poison."

She said some Germans were attracted to the right first during the Greek financial crisis when Germany was paying a large share of the bailouts to Athens, and then again in 2015 during the flood of migrants into Europe.


3:00 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says that with Britain's decision to leave the European Union the remaining countries in the bloc need to speak with one voice on the world stage.

She said Wednesday that the EU's remaining 27 member states need one voice on foreign policy "if we Europeans want to be taken seriously."

She added the so-called Brexit decision has invigorated the EU, and that only as a bloc can it tackle big challenges like that posed by China's growing influence.

She said, however, that Europe "regrets" the British decision to leave and is looking forward to keeping close ties.

She says "we are available for any form of partnership."

She reiterated that access to the bloc's common market is tied to freedom of movement. "We can't make any compromises there," she said.


2:50 p.m.

Spain's King Felipe VI says the recent Catalan push for independence was an attack on the country's democratic system and should serve as a lesson for democracies around the world on the need to preserve the rule of law and national sovereignty.

Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the king said Wednesday that what happened in Catalonia was "an attempt to undermine the basic rules of our democratic system."

Spain experienced its worst political crisis in a decade late last year, when the Catalan parliament declared independence. Spain fired the regional government, dissolved Catalonia's parliament and called regional elections in December.


2:45 p.m.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is lobbying for multilateral solutions to global problems, telling leaders in Davos that there is too much "national egoism" at the moment.

Merkel said Wednesday that the meeting's motto of "creating a shared future in a fractured world" was "exactly right" for 2018.

She says "we believe that isolationism won't take us forward. We believe that we must cooperate, that protectionism is not the correct answer."

On climate change, for example, she says efforts are going on "sadly without the United States" after Washington's decision to withdraw from the Paris agreement.


2:25 p.m.

Like countless others this winter, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has fallen victim to a bug, and as a result he won't be attending this year's World Economic Forum.

EU Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said in Brussels that the head of the bloc's executive arm "has a stomach flu that will not allow him to travel to Davos."

Juncker was due to be one of the main speakers on Thursday, ahead of British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Delegates were looking forward to hearing their respective assessments of Brexit.

Britain is due to leave the EU in March 2019 and is about to begin thorny trade discussions with the bloc. Juncker's Commission plays a key role in the discussions.


2:15 p.m.

Italy's prime minister says he understands U.S. President Donald Trump's "America First" mindset. But he insists it shouldn't come at the expense of free trade.

Paolo Gentiloni told reporters Wednesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland: "I consider legitimate for each country to say, 'My country first'. I could say 'Italy first,' why not?"

But, he added, if economic growth is the goal, then that means trade — and protectionism runs counter to that.

He said: "It is legitimate that each and every single one of us thinks of protecting some sectors for their own markets, but these choices across all sectors can never translate into protectionism."

Gentiloni said he believed the improving global economy stems from free trade, international treaties and the "free-market union formula we have in Europe."


12:00 p.m.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross thinks Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau used his speech at the World Economic Forum to put pressure on the U.S. in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In an address to the forum Tuesday, Trudeau said his country and the 10 remaining members of the Trans-Pacific Partnership had revised their trade deal in the wake of the U.S. withdrawal. He said he is "working very hard" to convince U.S. President Donald Trump about the merits of NAFTA.

Ross said Wednesday that Trudeau's speech was designed "to put a little pressure on the U.S. in the NAFTA talks."

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin insisted the Trump administration believes in "bilateral trading agreements" but that it wants to make sure "U.S. opportunities are equal to other people's opportunities in the U.S."


10:45 a.m.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has brushed off concerns about a tough reception from globalist critics at the elite World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

He said Wednesday that "we don't have to worry about this crowd."

Mnuchin spoke in the wake of scattered protests and concerns that Trump's "America First" message could clash with the internationalist throngs in Davos.

President Donald Trump is coming with an unusually large delegation to this year's Davos event. Mnuchin said it was "very important" for the U.S. to communicate with its counterparts.

Mnuchin, flanked by U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross at a press briefing, said: "This is an important forum. There are world leaders here from all over the world, there are important ministers from all over the world, there are important CEOs and private investors."

"Our objective is to be here to interact with important counterparts."


10:15 a.m.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has conceded that China could slap retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products following President Donald Trump's decision this week to impose tariffs on imported solar-energy components and large washing machines.

At a press conference at the World Economic Forum, Ross said Wednesday that there's "always potential for retribution and retaliation and that's up to the Chinese to decide."

Ross is part of one of the biggest U.S. delegations to ever come to the WEF, the highlight of which will be Trump's speech on Friday. Many participants at the forum are concerned about Trump's "America First" program and whether that augurs a new era of protectionism.

Ross also said trade wars are "fought every single day" and that every day, someone is trying to violate rules and "take advantage" of things.


9:45 a.m.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says his country is "absolutely" committed to free and fair trade, two days after President Donald Trump signed off on new tariffs on imported solar-energy components and large washing machines.

At a news conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Mnuchin said Wednesday that strong U.S. growth was good for the world economy and that there is no inconsistency with Trump's "America First" agenda and his belief in working with others on trade.

Mnuchin also said he's not "particularly concerned" by reports China is preparing to wind down its purchases of U.S. Treasuries, in part because of the U.S.'s stance on free trade.


6 a.m.

It's day two at the World Economic Forum and there'll be no escaping Europe.

The leaders of France and Germany, President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, are set to headline the roll-call of leaders Wednesday, two days before President Donald Trump is due to give his own speech in the heavily snow-covered Swiss town of Davos.

Europe's economic revival is one of the main reasons why the global economy is powering ahead and both Macron — who will make his first appearance at the WEF since being elected president — and Merkel will trumpet how the region has turned the corner after years of crisis.

King Felipe VI of Spain is also due to address delegates and anything he says about the restive region of Catalonia is likely to be of interest.