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Trump and Merkel Meet in Washington With Kisses, Part With Several Disagreements

© AP Photo / Evan VucciPresident Donald Trump shakes hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Friday, April 27, 2018, in Washington.
President Donald Trump shakes hands with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a news conference in the East Room of the White House, Friday, April 27, 2018, in Washington. - Sputnik International
Despite smiles and handshakes, the meeting between Donald Trump and Angela Merkel as well as the following press conference exposed contention regarding some of the most pressing international issues such as the Iran nuclear deal and trade relations.

Fate of Iran Nuclear Deal Clouded

The Iran nuclear deal, whose fate Donald Trump is to decide by May 12, was among the chief themes during Merkel’s one-day trip to Washington. The German chancellor as well as her French colleague several days prior to her visit, advocated saving the agreement. Trump repeatedly denounced it and threatened to withdraw from the deal, which froze Iran’s nuclear weapon programs several years ago.

Although the German chancellor agreed it’s “anything but perfect – it will not solve all the problems with Iran”, she also stated that it’s an important part of the mosaic. According to her, the deal was a first step towards reducing nuclear activities and controlling them.

"We Germans think it’s not enough to really ensure Iran takes on a role founded in reliability, so more is necessary," she said.

When asked on the fate of the deal, both leaders retreated to vague wording. While Merkel noted that “we will now see what sort of decisions is made by American partners,” Trump gave a menacing warning in response to a reporter’s question about using military force.

“They will not be doing nuclear weapons. That I can tell you. They’re not going to be doing nuclear weapons. You can bank on it,” said Trump.

READ MORE: ‘Not a Question of Arguments’: Merkel, Macron Can’t Get Trump to Save Iran Deal

Tariff Exemptions for EU in Question

The statement of mutual disagreements also concluded their talks on the steel and aluminum tariffs. The European Union enjoys the exemption from higher tariffs, imposed in March, but it is to expire on May 1. While the EU seeks permanent exceptional status, it’s still unclear if the US grants prolongation.

At the joint press conference, Trump complained again about America’s $151bn trade deficit with Europe and voiced his wish for better relations. He stated, however, that this is not the fault of the US overseas partners for the imbalance, but “the people that proceeded” him.

"We need a reciprocal relationship, which we don't have… We're working on it and we want to make it more fair and the chancellor wants to make it more fair," Trump said.

The German chancellor admitted that the US President’s decision on the further tariff policy towards the EU is unclear.

“The president will decide – that’s very clear. We had an exchange of views on the current state of affairs and the negotiations. The decision lies with the president,” she told the reporters.

Grudge Over NATO Spending

Another stumbling stone is Germany’s NATO spending. Berlin won’t pay the mandatory 2% of GDP, as Merkel’s government partners from the Social Democratic Party blocked the raise during the coalition talks. The country’s latest budget provisions 1.3% of GDP for defense. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has long bemoaned the situation within the Alliance, when only 5 of 28 members follow the 2 per cent guideline and repeated his criticism following talks with Merkel.

“Other countries should be paying more, and I’m not saying Germany alone. NATO is wonderful but it helps Europe more than it helps us, and why are we paying a vast majority of the costs?” Trump said, commenting on the issue.

Despite the disagreements, Trump tried to play a cordial and friendly host with Merkel, which contrasted the atmosphere during their previous meeting last year. He warmed up with a greeting tweet.

​During the meeting in the White House, he called the German chancellor a "very extraordinary woman," congratulated her on the recent election victory and praised her assistance in pressure over North Korea, helping to solve the nuclear crisis on the Peninsula. Moreover, he vocally dispelled doubts, which rose after the last year’s meeting when the German leader held out her hand and Trump did not shake it.

"We have a really great relationship, and we actually have had a great relationship right from the beginning, but some people didn't understand that," he stated.

This year he greeted Merkel with a handshake and a kiss on each cheek.

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