Trump, Merkel try to sidestep differences in first meeting

German Chancellor Angela Merkel listens as President Donald Trump speaks during their joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday. AP photo

WASHINGTON —

Though presenting a study in contrasts, President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel took a similar tack Friday in sidestepping differences after their first meeting at the White House. Trump asserted with a smile they had at least one thing in common: being wiretapped by the Obama administration.

Trump, the celebrity real estate developer and former reality television star, repeated his contention that former President Barack Obama may have tapped his phones in Trump Tower. He sought to turn the explosive charge into a light joke when asked about concerns raised by the British government that the White House is now citing a debunked claim that UK spies snooped on Trump.

“At least we have something in common, perhaps,” Trump said casually, referring to 2014 reports that the U.S. was monitoring Merkel’s cell phone conversations. As for the most recent report, Trump said he shouldn’t be blamed for quoting a Fox News analyst who had accused British intelligence of helping Obama spy on him. The German chancellor maintained her composure during the awkward diplomatic moment.

When a German reporter asked Trump if he regrets any of his commentary on Twitter, Trump said, “Very seldom.”

On another subject, Trump also pushed back against the notion in Europe that his “America First” agenda means he’s an isolationist, responding firmly, “I don’t believe in an isolationist policy.” The president appeared to bristle at the suggestion from a German reporter, adding, “I don’t know what newspaper you’re reading, but I guess that would be another example of, as you say, fake news.”

Merkel often attempted to project a more conciliatory approach, saying she and Trump had not yet had much time to discuss economic issues. She said the “success of Germans has always been one where the German success is one side of the coin and the other side of the coin has been European unity and European integration. That’s something of which I’m deeply convinced.”

Those comments appeared aimed at making a case to Trump on the benefits of the European Union. Trump backed Britain’s departure from the EU and has expressed skepticism of multilateral trade agreements.

The two leaders tried to express their common bonds but showed minimal rapport in their first encounter, a departure from Merkel’s warm relations with Obama during his eight years as president. During a photo op in the Oval Office, the two did not shake hands before reporters. At the start of the news conference, Merkel sought to break the ice, saying that it was “much better to talk to one another than about one another.”

Merkel said delicately that while she represents German interests, Trump “stands up for, as is right, American interests. That is our task respectively.” She said they were “trying to address also those areas where we disagree but tried to bring people together.”

“We need to be fair with each other,” Merkel said, saying both countries were expecting “that something good comes out of it for their own people.”

The meetings at the White House included discussions on strengthening NATO, fighting the Islamic State group, the conflict in Afghanistan and resolving Ukraine’s conflict, all matters that require close cooperation between the U.S. and Germany.

The talks, postponed from Tuesday because of a snowstorm, aimed to represent a restart of a relationship complicated by Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail. As a candidate, Trump frequently accused the chancellor of “ruining” Germany for allowing an influx of refugees and other migrants from Syria and accused his campaign rival, Hillary Clinton, of wanting to be “America’s Angela Merkel.”

During the news conference, Trump predicted that a new health care law would be passed by a substantial margin and “pretty quickly,” expressing optimism for his top legislative priority.

The new president reaffirmed the United States’ “strong support” for NATO but reiterated his stance that NATO allies need to “pay their fair share” for the cost of defense. Trump said many countries owe “vast sums of money” but he declined to identify Germany as one of the nations.

Prior to his inauguration, Trump declared NATO “obsolete” but has since modified his stance, telling European leaders the alliance remains of strategic importance. Only the U.S. and four other members currently reach the benchmark of spending 2 percent of GDP on defense. Germany currently spends 1.23 percent of its GDP on defense, but it is being increased.

Both leaders pointed to their work on the conflict in Afghanistan and efforts to combat terrorism.

When the topic moved to trade, Trump said the U.S. would do “fantastically well” in its trade relations with Germany. The president has been deeply critical of foreign trade and national security agreements but suggested he was only trying to revise trade deals to better serve U.S. interests, rather than pull back from the world entirely.

Trump said trade agreements have led to greater trade deficits. The U.S. trade deficit with Germany was $64.9 billion last year, the lowest since 2009, according to the Commerce Department.

“The negotiators for Germany have done a far better job than the negotiators for the United States, but hopefully we can even it out. We don’t want victory, we want fairness,” Trump said.

Merkel emphasized the need for trade deals that fairly benefit both countries. “That is the spirit I think in which we ought to be guided in negotiating any agreement between the United States of America and the EU,” she said.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • 13

    Mr. Noidall

    Just saw the ABC news report, and I must say, Trump reminds me of a school on Sunday: no class. Merkel offered to shake hands, and Trump, with the countenance and poise of a five-year-old put on timeout, gave Merkel the silent treatment. The silent treatment! How childish is that. Trump still hasn't learned that people can disagree and still behave like an adult. Definitely not the stuff world leaders are made of that Trump.

  • 7

    CrazyJoe

    Trump: Wanna come play golf at Mar-a-Lago this weekend?

    Merkel: No, I've got a Country to run.

    Don, you have absolutely NOTHING in common with Frau Merkel. She is an accomplished politician and you are the polar opposite. She is full of compassion and you have not a drop of it in your body. You owe her an apology for suggesting that you resemble her in any form.

  • 7

    katsu78

    Good lord, that handshake scene was downright painful to watch.

  • 5

    toshiko

    Trump said, Obama wiretapped him and her. She looked at him with strange face,

  • -3

    M3M3M3

    @Crazyjoe

    She is full of compassion and you have not a drop of it in your body. You owe her an apology for suggesting that you resemble her in any form.

    Compassion is admirable as long as its entirely your own. If your accountant were to donate all of your money on charity without ever asking your permission, should I praise his compassion? Trump and Merkel appear to be worlds apart but they are just opposite sides of the same authoritarian coin. One acts like a dictator for 'good', the other for 'bad'. Both are equally toxic, loathsome and a danger to democracy.

  • -2

    Bartholomew Harte

    Polar Opposites in every way but agreeing to disagree , Merkels world is on fire &our may end up that way as well-

  • 2

    Kurobune

    One question : Did he grope her ?

  • -4

    kawabegawa198

    Considering the mess she's made of her own country by admitting hoards of terrorists, I don't blame him for not shaking her hand.

  • -6

    Louis Amsel

    He's bit man child sometimes but I like him more and more haha. do what you do Don, the world has changed profoundly since the end of cold war, and the west need to adapt.

  • 10

    zichi

    Trumpski doesn't want to spend fed dollars on after-school programs, meals for poor people or heating assistance to help keep folk alive. In his election campaign he stated he will be too busy to take many vacations. Every weekend he spends at his Florida Winter White House, and this weekend will be his fifth time, costs $3 million.

    Trumpski and his family remain in a position to be able to pay for the best medical care whenever they need it.

    Very bad way for any America president to treat an important leader of a global leading country and important American ally. His handling of his visit with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel, was well below the belt and undignified. She was made to feel uncomfortable and rejected. Refusing to shake the hand of Merkel during the press conference.

    German firms employ tens of thousands of Americans.

  • -4

    M3M3M3

    If Angela Merkel hadn't bungled the 2015-2016 migrant crisis so horribly, it's likely that we would not be facing Brexit and that Donald Trump would not be president. Just remember how narrow the margins were in both of these votes.

    The images of migrants and refugees tearing down fences, setting fires, and throwing rocks at police in their desperate attempt to reach Germany was undoubtedly what tipped the balance in populism's favour. People were rightly horrified to see the authorities completely lose control in such a dramatic fashion. Unfortunately many of them seemed to think voting for the extreme right was the only way to get it back.

    It's important that we be honest and recognise exactly how and why we arrived at our current populist dystopia so that we can avoid ever returning here in the future.

  • 7

    itsonlyrocknroll

    That was rude, toe curling stuff, President Trump has clearly had a diplomacy bypass. beyond awkward. I bet White House staff are nailing down the furniture, and making sure the expensive, difficult to replace pottery is out of reach.

  • 6

    Jimizo

    There should be a permanent travel ban on GOP presidents. Trump in particular is okay cracking knob jokes and setting fire to his farts in front of his whoopers but situations like this require a bit more tact, thought and class.

  • 6

    zichi

    There should be a permanent travel ban on GOP presidents.

    Trump has told his staff he does not want to travel to foreign countries and prefers the control of having world leaders in the White House. He said he would meet Putin in Iceland but that never happened. He will be the least travelled president outside of America and besides he prefers his weekends at his Florida Winter White House and this weekend is his 7th visit there. He did accept a British state visit but disliked the boos and protests so postponed until October.

  • 5

    lostrune2

    Trump, the celebrity real estate developer and former reality television star, repeated his contention that former President Barack Obama may have tapped his phones in Trump Tower. He sought to turn the explosive charge into a light joke when asked about concerns raised by the British government that the White House is now citing a debunked claim that UK spies snooped on Trump.

    Merkel wasn't laughing at all on that one. She's probably thinking: "don't compare our situation with yours - our situation was real; yours is probably fake." lol

    As for the most recent report, Trump said he shouldn’t be blamed for quoting a Fox News analyst who had accused British intelligence of helping Obama spy on him.

    For someone who constantly derides mainstream media, Trump sure believes so much of MSM news

    I mean I don't get it - he's the one who keeps saying MSM news shouldn't be believed; yet he keeps believing it...................................... So which is it?

    (Oh yeah, don't believe everything ya read on the internet neither.)

    During a photo op in the Oval Office, the two did not shake hands before reporters.

    Seems Trump who didn't want to shake Merkel's hands........... which is weird since he's the host and who invited Merkel to visit

    Imagine if other state leaders refuse to shake his hands when it's their turn to host him

  • 0

    SenseNotSoCommon

    What an utter, unmitigated tool. Poor Angela.

  • 0

    presto345

    Good lord, that handshake scene was downright painful to watch.

    The man is not just childish, he is an outright boor.

  • 1

    toshiko

    Too late for Trump to make Germany increase share. Japanese PM Abe met her and Germany, Italy and France will cooperate their success together. They are excluding Trump's America.

Login to leave a comment

OR
Undergraduate: Information session (April 9)

Undergraduate: Information session (April 9)

Temple University, Japan CampusContinuing Education / MBA

Trip to Bountiful in the Heart of Tohoku

Trip to Bountiful in the Heart of Tohoku

JI Core 50 Professional MonitorsBusiness Services

Blowfish Cuisine in Japan

Blowfish Cuisine in Japan

Ms GreenTravel / Hotels

Special Offers

グローバルに
活躍したいあなたへ
外資系転職

バイリンガル人材の
ための求人サイト

見てみる

More in World

View all

View all

Time
to Buy
in Japan

Find the perfect home today!

Search