Newsweek – Politics
Trump Exposed Ignorance During Trade Talk With Merkel, Leaving White House Aides Humiliated: Report
Greg Price, Newsweek December 29, 2017
President Donald Trump appeared to know little, if anything, about international trade deals during an exchange with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in March this year. White House officials reportedly characterized the talk as “humiliating.”
The Republican Trump asked Merkel about creating a new, bilateral trade deal between Germany and the U.S., even though, as a member of the European Union, Germany cannot strike such a deal without the other 27 members of the union, according to The New York Times.
Merkel was afraid to fully correct Trump since White House aides told German officials the four-term chancellor had been condescending to Trump during one of their first phone calls.
Instead, Merkel eased into an explanation that an agreement could be reached in concert with the EU.
“So it could be bilateral?” Trump asked Merkel, who nodded, according to those in the meeting. Trump responded: “That’s great.”
Trump then turned to Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross and said: “Wilbur, we’ll negotiate a bilateral trade deal with Europe.”
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German officials were reportedly relieved that no incident occurred, but White House officials told The Times they saw the exchange as “humiliating.”
President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel attend a panel discussion titled “Launch Event Women’s Entrepreneur Finance Initiative” on the second day of the G20 summit on July 8 in Hamburg, Germany. Getty Images/Ukas Michael
Before they sat down, Trump claimed not to have heard photographers’ requests for he and Merkel to shake hands, a terse moment captured on video that later was used as an example of Trump’s attitude toward dealing with Europe altogether.
Three months later at a campaign rally, Merkel was candid about Europeans needing to rely on one another rather than other allies.
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“We Europeans truly have to take our fate into our own hands—naturally in friendship with the United States of America, in friendship with Great Britain, as good neighbors with whoever, also with Russia and other countries,” she said.
Merkel added: “But we have to know that we Europeans must fight for our own future and destiny.”
Crying “America First,” Trump’s takes on foreign policy and his administration’s work abroad have received vast criticism throughout his first year in office. He challenged members of NATO to pay their “fair share” of defense spending and routinely exchanged ominous threats of “fire” and war with North Korea’s Kim Jong Un–going so far as to call the leader “rocket man” at the United Nations General Assembly.
Trump also pulled the U.S. out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris climate accord meant to combat global warming. Most recently, he recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital–much to the dismay of the rest of the Middle East.
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