German Chancellor Angela Merkel and US President Donald Trump are about to meet for the first time face-to-face this week in Washington. Analysts predict a clash of style and substance. According to Charles Kupchan, Barack Obama’s advisor on European policy, the two leaders are not likely to become friends. “Do I think they are going to become good friends? Probably not. They are very different personalities,” Mr. Kupchan said and added that, however, he thinks that “they have a strong interest, both politically and strategically, in learning how to work together. It is arguably the most important meeting with a foreign leader of Trump’s presidency.”
For months, the new US administration and the European Union have been engaged in a complicated long-distance skirmish over policy and values. Mr. Trump had repeatedly slammed Mrs. Merkel on his campaign trail, describing her migration policy as “insane”. Their Friday meeting will be watched by governments and observers around the world for hints and clues about the future of the transatlantic relations, a partnership that has been the backbone of Western liberal order since World War II. Angela Merkel said that it made little sense in politics to read too much into past statements. “I believe that direct conversation is always much better than talking about each other,” she also added on Monday (13 March).
Both sides are expected to discuss Germany’s 50-billion trade surplus with the United States as Donald Trump had earlier threatened to impose tariffs on German car manufacturers that are imported into the American market. He has also criticized Berlin for not spending more on defense and called Germany’s refugee policy a “catastrophic mistake”. In contrast, Mrs. Merkel is expected to remind her counterpart that every country is obliged to take in war refugees on humanitarian grounds under the Geneva Convention.