Obama talks trade deals, refugee crisis during Germany visit

World Today

Germany ObamaU.S. President Barack Obama, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel chat during the opening of the Hannover Messe industry fair in Hannover, northern Germany, Sunday, April 24, 2016. Obama is on a two-day official visit to Germany. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

President Barack Obama delivered a strong defense of international trade deals Sunday in the face of domestic and foreign opposition, saying it’s “indisputable” that such agreements strengthen the economies and make U.S. businesses more competitive worldwide.

CCTV’s Guy Henderson reports on the talks between Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Follow Guy Henderson on Twitter @guyhendersonde

Obama talks trade deals and refugee crisis during Germany visit

CCTV's Guy Henderson reports on the talks between Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Obama, on a farewell visit to Germany as president, is trying to counter public skepticism about a trans-Atlantic trade deal with Europe, while also facing down criticism from the 2016 presidential candidates of a pending Asia-Pacific trade pact.

Despite all that, Obama said, “the majority of people still favor trade. They still recognize, on balance, that it’s a good idea.”

Obama isn’t alone in facing opposition on trade. His host and partner on the daylong campaign, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, also is under pressure from critics who claim the trans-Atlantic deal would erode environmental standards and consumer protections.

Thousands of people took to the streets in Hannover to protest the trade deal on the eve of Obama’s arrival.

Throughout the day, Obama and Merkel stressed their alignment on trade, as well as other matters.

At a press conference, Obama made a strong public show of support for her handling of the migrant issue, saying she was “on the right side of history on this.”

Her decision to allow the resettlement in Germany of thousands fleeing violence in Syria and other Mideast conflict zones has created an angry domestic backlash. Merkel recently helped European countries reach a deal with Turkey to ease the flow, but she and the other leaders are now under pressure to revisit it.

Obama said Merkel was “giving voice, I think, to the kinds of principles that bring people together rather than divide them.”

But Obama would not go so far as to back her support for establishing a “safe zone” in Syrian territory, saying that would be difficult to put in place.

“As a practical matter, sadly, it is very difficult to see how it would operate short of us essentially being willing to militarily take over a big chunk of that country,” he said. “And that requires a big military commitment.”

Obama also said the United States isn’t taking seriously North Korea’s latest statements about being ready to halt its nuclear tests if the U.S. would suspend its annual military exercises with South Korea.

Obama says that if North Korea wants to shows it’s serious, then it would be prepared to enter negotiation to reduce tensions in the region.

North Korea’s foreign minister made the offer in an Associated Press interview on Saturday.

But Obama said such a commitment isn’t shown “based on a press release” and that the North is going to have to do better.

The two leaders also addressed the on-going fighting in Syria. Obama says “as a practical matter,” a safe zone for civilians could not be accomplished without using the military to “take over a big chunk” of the war-torn country.

Story by The Associated Press with additional information from CCTV America.