Tensions show as Trump, Merkel hold ‘awkward’ joint meet for first time
|Source: The Hitavada Date: 19 Mar 2017 08:55:21|
STARK differences between President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on everything from trade to immigration were in full view during an icy first meeting at the White House. In a frequently awkward joint press conference, Trump and Merkel showed little common ground as they addressed a host of thorny issues including NATO, defence spending and free trade deals.
For most of the 30 minutes in the East Room, Merkel was stony-faced as Trump ripped into Washington’s NATO allies for not paying for their “fair share” for transatlantic defence and demanded “fair and reciprocal trade” deals.
Trump asserted that the NATO allies must pay their fair share for the cost of defence, even as he reaffirmed his “strong support” for the military alliance.
“I reiterated to (German) Chancellor (Angela) Merkel my strong support for NATO, as well as the need for our NATO allies to pay their fair share for the cost of defence,” Trump told a White House news conference along with the German leader.
“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,” he said soon after the two leaders met at the Oval Office of the White House.
The veteran German chancellor had arrived at a snowy White House hoping to reverse a chill in relations after Trump’s incendiary election rhetoric.
The visit began cordially, with the pair shaking hands at the entrance of the White House.
But later, sitting side-by-side in the Oval Office, Merkel’s suggestion of another handshake went unheard or ignored by Trump -- an awkward moment in what are usually highly scripted occasions.
There was never going to be an easy rapport between the cautious German chancellor and impulsive US President.
During the press conference, Merkel said “it’s much, much better to talk to one another and not about one another, and I think our conversation proved this.”
But even the lighter moments were tinged with tension.
Amid a furore over Trump’s unfounded allegations that he was wiretapped by Obama, the new President cracked a joke referring to past revelations that Merkel’s phone had also been bugged by his Democratic predecessor. “As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps,” he said.
Merkel appeared not to find the humour in what had been a major political scandal.