US president Donald Trump expressed confidence ahead of meeting with Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel that “tough” trade barriers between the US and the European Union can be overcome.
Trump wrapped up their joint press conference by calling Justin Trudeau “two-faced” over video footage from Tuesday night which appeared to show the Canadian leader making a joke about Trump.
Merkel and Trump put on a show of harmony ahead of their meeting on the sidelines at the Nato Summit in London on Wednesday afternoon, with the German chancellor only interjecting once to make a brief comment.
Trump said that he and Merkel would discuss the Nordstream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, which Trump has vocally opposed. They would also talk about trade, as Germany is a big trading partner of the US, the president added, noting that “it is really the European Union. We have had a bad imbalance for many years, for decades actually” that was “very bad” for the US.
“One word,” Merkel said. “I think that the fact that there is a new commission in place, under the leadership of a new president of the European Commission we have a very good basis to resume our talks.”
Trump has been threatening to slap punitive tariffs on European imports, which would hit the German car industry particularly hard. Earlier this week, Washington drew up plans to impose $2.4bn (£1.85bn) worth of tariffs on French exports in retaliation for France’s new digital services tax, which it says unfairly targets American tech companies.
Trump’s appearance with Merkel was a stark contrast to the combative appearance between him and French president Macron on Tuesday, after the US leader said Macron’s recent criticism of Nato was “very nasty.” Macron said that he stood by his statements about Nato — he told The Economist that it was suffering a “brain death” and that the US could no longer be relied on.
Relations have been frosty between the German chancellor and the US president since he took office, and he has frequently criticised Germany for not spending enough on its military defence.
Merkel underlined her support for Nato last week, telling the Bundestag that it was time for Germany to take a more active role in the alliance. She announced that Berlin would increase its spending on its own military to NATO’s required 2% of the country’s GDP by “the early 2030s.” It will first raise it to 1.42% in 2020, then to 1.5% by 2024.
“The preservation of NATO is in our own interest, even more so than during the cold war,” Merkel said. "At the moment, Europe is unable to defend itself" without the military alliance, she added.
It is not just defence spending that has driven a wedge between Berlin and London, they have also been at loggerheads on a variety of issues, including the US’s withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal and the Paris Climate Accord, and Germany’s refusal to block Huawei from its 5G auctions.