Trump welcomes German leader to White House but keeps a distance on Iran, trade

World Today

International security, global trade and the Iran nuclear deal were all on the agenda for a quick White House visit by Germany’s Chancellor.

Angela Merkel arrived just days after a state visit by France’s President – and spent less than three-hours with President Trump.

CGTN’s Roee Ruttenberg reports.

German Chancellor Merkel is a seasoned politician – she knows what she wants. On Friday, it was to convince Donald Trump to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. The U.S. President insists the agreement – signed under his predecessor, Barack Obama – is a bad deal.

“The Iranian regime fuels violence, bloodshed and chaos, all across the Middle East,” Trump said while speaking to the press with Merkel. “We must ensure that this murderous regime does not even get close to a nuclear weapon. And that Iran ends its proliferation of dangerous missiles and its support for terrorism.”

Merkel and other European leaders have long maintained the Iran deal — known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA — is not ideal, but still a good start. “We are of the opinion the agreement with Iran is a first step that has contributed to slowing down their nuclear activities,” Merkel said in Washington. “It’s also established a better verification and monitoring process.”

Trump has indicated he might pull out of the deal next month, when he is required – again – to certify Iranian compliance. Such a move that would surely anger Europe’s longest serving leader. At the White House on Friday, Trump called her a “very extraordinary woman.” But then he gave Merkel a dressing down over a host of issues, like trade.

Trump slammed Berlin for its trade surplus with Washington. “We need a reciprocal relationship, which we don’t have,” Trump said. “We’re working on it and we want to make it more fair and the Chancellor wants to make it more fair.”

Merkel suggested the imbalance could soon change, thanks to recent tax reform in Washington that once again made German investment in the U.S. attractive. But she warned that new U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum – due to go into effect on May 1st – could jeopardize that, and should be delayed so that both sides could negotiate.

Trump also said Germany needed to spend more to fund a cross-Atlantic military alliance. “NATO is wonderful,” Trump said, “but it helps Europe more than it helps us, and why are we paying the vast majority of the costs?”

Despite the smiles and friendly gestures – an obvious improvement from her last visit – Merkel’s tough-talk and straight-to-business approach with Trump was a stark contrast to the French president’s visit earlier this week. Emmanuel Macron and Trump tried to come across as best friends. Merkel made no such effort. Her trip was meant to seal the deal on divisive issues broached by Macron. Instead, his “bromance” with the U.S. president may have overshadowed her “nomance.”