Merkel makes little progress with Trump over sanctions

US president reiterates his view that EU-US trade relationship is imbalanced

President Donald Trump meets  German chancellor Angela Merkel in the White House, April 27th, 2018. Photograph: AP

President Donald Trump meets German chancellor Angela Merkel in the White House, April 27th, 2018. Photograph: AP

 

German chancellor Angela Merkel appeared to make little headway in lobbying against US sanctions due to come into effect next Tuesday when she met US president Donald Trump at the White House on Friday.

Ms Merkel flew to Washington for a “working meeting” with the Mr Trump, days after the French president Emmanuel Macron was hosted by the US president for a state visit.

The US imposed tough tariffs on steel and aluminium imports last month but granted the EU an exemption until May 1st. Speaking after their meeting, Mr Trump reiterated his view that the EU-US trade relationship was imbalanced.

“We must have a fair and reciprocal trade relationship with our friends and partners,” he said during a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House, noting that the US currently runs a deficit of $151 billion (€124.5bn) with the EU, much of it down to Germany.

The German chancellor highlighted the thousands of American jobs supported by the German car industry in the US, but she said the decision on sanctions was ultimately a matter for the president. “We had an exchange of views. The decision lies with the president,” she said. Mr Trump also urged European nations to contribute 2 per cent of GDP or more to Nato, stating that it was unfair that the US is the top funder of the transatlantic body.

Iran

On the Iran deal, Mr Trump said it was essential that Iran “does not even get close to a nuclear weapon”.

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“In the Middle East, wherever there is a problem, Iran is right there,” he said. But he again declined to confirm whether he would sign a waiver lifting US sanctions on Iran ahead of a May 12th deadline. If he does not sign the waiver, the US will be effectively pulling out of the deal.

Ms Merkel shed little light on Mr Trump’s thinking. “We want to see what sort of decisions are made by our American partners,” she said, when asked about the Iran agreement.

In a surprise development, Mr Trump also said that he may visit Jerusalem to mark the opening of the new US embassy there.

Highlighting the strong links between the US and Germany, Ms Merkel noted that the visit was her first international trip outside Europe since her re-election.

Relations between the two leaders appeared to be notably warmer than their first encounter over a year ago when the US president appeared to refuse to shake Ms Merkel’s hand.

Handshakes

On Friday, Mr Trump initiated several handshakes with the German chancellor, both in the Oval Office and at the joint press conference.

“We have a really great relationship, and we actually have had a great relationship right from the beginning, but some people didn’t understand that, but we understand and that’s what’s important,” he said as he welcomed her to the West Wing.

Separately, the House Intelligence Committee, a key committee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election largely cleared the Trump campaign of collusion with Russia.

The Republican-controlled committee published its heavily-redacted final report on the matter, but Democrats largely rejected its findings. The report found “no evidence that the Trump campaign colluded, co-ordinated, or conspired with the Russian government,” though it details several meetings between Trump campaign officials and Russian individuals or intermediaries.  Mr Trump seized on the report’s findings to reiterate his innocence on Twitter. “Just Out: House Intelligence Committee Report released. “No evidence” that the Trump Campaign “colluded, coordinated or conspired with Russia,” he tweeted.  “Clinton Campaign paid for Opposition Research obtained from Russia – Wow! A total Witch Hunt! MUST END NOW!