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Angela Merkel

Trump hammers Germany as row escalates while Merkel touts reliable ties with India

After hosting Narendra Modi, German leader to host Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2017, 12:52am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 30 August, 2017, 6:48pm

President Donald Trump blasted Germany anew over trade and defence, ratcheting up a dispute with Chancellor Angela Merkel that risks getting personal and undermining a trans-Atlantic bond that is the bedrock of US-European relations.

Trump’s comments came in an early-morning tweet on Tuesday issued just as Merkel hosted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Berlin, where they held a joint cabinet meeting and signed cooperation agreements. Modi suggested that India will adhere to the Paris climate accords, while Trump makes up his mind.

The message came minutes after Merkel and Modi held a joint press conference in which the German leader called India a “reliable partner with respect to big projects.” That contrasted with her comments in Munich on Sunday that dependable trans-Atlantic ties that formed the basis of German foreign policy since World War II “are to some extent over.”

Trump’s tweet showed the deterioration of links with a key NATO ally, yet his timing also highlighted Germany’s web of relations with international partners who broadly share Merkel’s free-trade outlook and conviction on combating climate change. After hosting Modi, Merkel is due to meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday.

In a speech to a German-Indian business forum later on Tuesday, Merkel took another tilt at a president elected on a ticket of “America First,” referring to “a whole series of protectionist tendencies” emerging worldwide. She said “it’s necessary to be open to achieve fair trade conditions.”

While it’s unclear whether Merkel has deliberately picked a fight with Trump or misspoke and bit off more than she can chew, challenging his stance is popular in Germany.

As she campaigns for a fourth term in September elections, polls suggest that Merkel has overwhelming backing among German voters, and even among her political opponents, for taking a stand. It’s the “calling of our times to stand up to this man with everything that we represent,” Social Democrat Martin Schulz, Merkel’s main election challenger, said in a campaign speech late Monday.

It’s also not the first time a German chancellor has clashed with a US president. Merkel’s Social Democratic predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, publicly disavowed George W Bush’s invasion of Iraq in a trans-Atlantic rift that Merkel worked to repair upon her election in 2005.

Alongside Modi, Merkel said that while trans-Atlantic relations are of “paramount significance,” the European Union had to forge its own path in the world “considering the current situation.”

“What I said was simply to indicate that, here are even more reasons beyond those we already have that Europe needs to take its destiny into its own hands,” she said.

Modi, the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy, welcomed a stronger global role for the EU and expressly lauded the bloc’s most powerful leader.

“We always want that the European Union should be stronger, should be more active,” Modi said. “Through Chancellor Merkel, we will be able to work with the European Union. It’s very easy for us.”

Modi’s comments contrasted with Trump’s meeting with EU leaders in Brussels last week, when he said that Germany is “very bad” for flooding the US with cars, hectored NATO allies on military spending and refused to explicitly back the principle of collective defence.

Why Merkel decided she had to put diplomacy aside and speak up about Trump

At the Group of Seven summit that followed, Trump’s first, passages on free trade and on immigration were substantially altered compared to previous years, while the US was alone in failing to commit to the global Paris climate agreement.

After failing to sway Trump, Merkel has turned her attention to forging consensus among other G-20 nations at a summit meeting she’s hosting in Hamburg in July.

Modi signalled that India will move forward on its climate agenda even if the US exits the Paris agreement, saying politicians have “absolutely no right” to put in jeopardy the environment for future generations. He praised Merkel’s experience and Germany’s economic example to India.

“We are meant for each other,” Modi said.