Merkel’s Low-Key Visit With Trump Focuses On Trade, Foreign Policy

Updated at 2:50 p.m. ET

President Trump welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the White House Friday, calling her “a very extraordinary woman.” At a photo op before a working lunch, Trump said the two leaders “will be working on a lot of different subjects,” including trade and NATO.

In a joint press conference, Trump and Merkel took questions from reporters after their discussions.

Merkel’s visit does not include much of the fanfare that accompanied French President Emmanuel Macron’s trip to Washington, D.C., earlier this week.

While there will be no fancy state dinner, Merkel was expected to echo many of the concerns that were raised by Macron about U.S. positions on trade and foreign policy during her Oval Office meeting and working lunch with Trump.

Germany and France both want the United States to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. The Trump administration has until May 12 to renew sanctions relief for Iran, as the deal requires. The president has repeatedly slammed the agreement, calling it one of the worst deals ever made.

Merkel was also expected press the United States to grant the European Union a permanent exemption from U.S. import tariffs on steel and aluminum. Those duties are slated to go into effect on May 1.

Macron talked about the need for free and fair trade, but Merkel was expected spend more time attempting to convince Trump to step back from a potential trade war.

The Germans “are worried that a dispute between the European Union and United States on trade and tariffs could spiral … to include autos, and there the Germans have a lot more to lose than the French,” said Peter Rough, a fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Merkel and Trump do not have the close personal bond that Trump shares with Macron. One reason for the frosty relations is that Germany has a larger trade deficit with the United States. Trump has made clear he considers such deficits a loss for the United States.

Germany has also not gotten close to spending 2 percent of its GDP on the military, a goal set by NATO members and repeatedly stressed by Trump. Trump has accused NATO members of not paying their fair share.

But analysts say Merkel’s ability to charm Trump should not be underestimated.

“She’s a cool and rational person, and has a wicked sense of humor,” said Constanze Stelzenmuller, of the Brookings Institution. “She does have this natural warmth and she does display that in private conversation. For all we know, she might be able to win him over.”

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.