German-US rift widens as Trump levels new attack on German trade tactics
The transatlantic diplomatic rift widened on Tuesday as US President Donald Trump responded to criticism from Chancellor Angela Merkel with a new attack on German trade tactics and defense spending, Agence-France Presse reported.
When Trump returned at the weekend from Europe and the first foreign trip of his presidency, his aides hailed the tour as a success and a sign of renewed and bolder US leadership on the world stage, according to AFP.
But, while Trump received a warm welcome in Saudi Arabia and Israel, he left behind a bitter taste in Europe after the NATO summit in Brussels and the G7 get-together of the world’s richest powers in Sicily, AFP added.
AFP also said that European leaders were especially dismayed by Trump’s refusal to reaffirm US support for last year’s Paris climate change accord and his failure to publicly endorse NATO’s mutual defense pledge.
Germany, until recently Washington’s closest partner in Europe, was particularly discomfited, and Merkel wasted no time in warning German voters that the United States can no longer be relied upon as before, AFP indicated.
Trump’s response came in the early hours of Tuesday when he took to Twitter to once again demand that Germany renegotiate the terms of transatlantic trade and boost its defense spending.
“We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military,” Trump wrote, in his flamboyantly undiplomatic style. “Very bad for US This will change.”
German officials have repeatedly insisted that, as a member of the European Union, they can not conduct bilateral trade talks with the US and that they are not ready to dramatically increase military spending.
In January, the White House accused Germany of exploiting an undervalued euro to boost its trade advantage, despite Berlin’s long opposition to the European Central Bank’s loose monetary policy.
And, even after he held a frosty meeting with Merkel in Washington in March and heard her explain Germany has no independent, non-EU trade policy, Trump continues to complain about Germany’s surplus, AFP explained.
According to the German weekly Der Spiegel, Trump told European officials in Brussels last week that “the Germans are bad, very bad.” AFP added.
Trump’s spokesman Sean Spicer gamely tried to deny the report, insisting that European Commission chairman Jean-Claude Juncker had confirmed that “Trump was not aggressive on German trade surplus.”
But after Merkel and other senior German officials, who are campaigning ahead of September national elections in their own country, spent the weekend attacking Trump, the US leader returned to the theme, AFP concluded.
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