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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Saturday, May 27, 2017

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Merkel, Trump differ on NATO, immigration but Trump thinks he has found common ground

A conference of retorts

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WASHINGTON, U.S. - In a press conference full of retorts, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, clashed with U.S. President Donald Trump when it came to differences on policy, trade and immigration.> BNN

After the scheduled meeting with the Chancellor was delayed earlier this week, Trump welcomed Merkel to the White House on Friday for a full schedule of events. 

She was scheduled to attend an Oval Office meeting, lunch and a round-table discussion with German and American chief executives.

In the lack of a friendly past or cordial relationship, both leaders chose to stick to cut and dry discussions, even though Trump often went off course and tried to lure Merkel into his political comments every now and then, drawing merely thin smiles from the Chancellor. 

Trump's increasing pressure on NATO to shore up defense funding came up again as one of the core topics discussed. 

Trump, addressing a joint press conference with Merkel, in the East Room of the White House, demanded that America’s NATO allies pay back “vast sums of money from past years,”

Trump first affirmed his “strong support” for NATO and declared he is not an “isolationist” on free trade.

Then, he said, “Many nations owe vast sums of money from past years, and it is very unfair to the United States. These nations must pay what they owe.”

Trump said that he believed that Germany, like China and other trading partners, had taken advantage of the United States. 

“It’s not exactly good for our workers,” he said, adding that they had been “screwed.” 

The president said his “America First” approach had begun reversing that trend, luring factories back to Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and other states that had lost manufacturing jobs to foreign countries.

Commenting further, Trump vowed that the United States would no longer be out-negotiated on trade deals by Germany.

Adding, “Right now, I would say that the negotiators for Germany have done a far better job than the negotiators for the United States. But hopefully we can even it out.”

Merkel, in response, said that Germany had committed to increasing its military spending, but noted that the alliance had other vital 

missions, like security and development in Africa.

She further argued that Germany doesn’t negotiate its own trade deals with the United States - claiming that as a member of the European Union, it delegates that authority to Brussels. 

On his campaign trail, Trump had been critical of Merkel for allowing refugees into Germany. However, since taking office, he has tried to moderate his words. 

At the press conference, he did not mention his executive order banning travel from six predominantly Muslim countries.

He, however, said that “immigration is a privilege, not a right, and the safety of our citizens must always come first, without question.”

Merkel, on the other hand, spoke about her idea of “open-minded” globalisation. 

While Merkel acknowledged the need to secure borders and work to integrate immigrants into society - she emphasised that such goals have “to be done while looking at the refugees as well, giving them opportunities to shape their own lives . . . [and] help countries who right now are not able to do so, sometimes because they have civil war.”

She said refugees needed opportunities to improve their lives, in part to stabilise their countries and prevent them from sliding into civil war. 

She emphasised the importance of freedom of movement, claiming it was one of the great strengths of the European Union. She added Germany’s success was inextricably tied to the success of the European Union.

Merkel noted, “That’s something of which I’m deeply convinced. And I’m not only saying this back home. I’m saying it in the United States and also here in Washington, in my talks with the president.”

Merkel was asked to comment on Trump’s style and she said, “Well, people are different. Sometimes it’s difficult to find compromises, but that’s what we’ve been elected for. If everything just went like that without a problem, well, you don’t need politicians to do these jobs.”

But just as the impersonal news conference came to an end, Trump said he had managed to find common ground with Merkel - in that, they both, he said, had wiretapped by former President Barack Obama - but in spite of the controversial statement, he failed to draw as much as a second look from Merkel, who carried about her business, shuffling notes.

 

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