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Tensions show as Trump ignores Merkel's handshake offer in first meeting

Updated Mar 18, 2017 12:33pm

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US President Donald Trump meets with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, March 17.— Reuters
US President Donald Trump meets with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, March 17.— Reuters

Stark differences between President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on everything from trade to immigration were in full view during an icy first meeting at the White House Friday.

In a frequently awkward joint press conference, Trump and Merkel showed little common ground as they addressed a host of thorny issues including Nato, defence spending and free trade deals.

For most of the 30 minutes in the East Room, Merkel was stony-faced as Trump ripped into Washington's Nato allies for not paying for their “fair share” for transatlantic defence and demanded “fair and reciprocal trade” deals.

The veteran German chancellor had arrived at a snowy White House hoping to reverse a chill in relations after Trump's incendiary election rhetoric.

The visit began cordially, with the pair shaking hands at the entrance of the White House.

But later, sitting side-by-side in the Oval Office, Merkel's suggestion of another handshake went unheard or ignored by Trump — an awkward moment in what are usually highly scripted occasions.

There was never going to be an easy rapport between the cautious German chancellor and impulsive US president.

For years, Merkel — a trained physicist — had been president Barack Obama's closest international partner, with the two sharing a strong rapport and a similar deliberative approach.

Before coming to office in January, Trump had set the tone by calling Merkel's acceptance of refugees a “catastrophic mistake” and suggested she was “ruining Germany”. In a similar vein, Merkel has sought to remind — some in the White House would say lecture — the real estate mogul about democratic values.

Comments like that have prompted some of Trump's fiercest critics to declare Merkel the new “leader of the free world” — a moniker normally taken up by the occupant of the White House.

During the press conference, Merkel said “it's much, much better to talk to one another and not about one another, and I think our conversation proved this”. But even the lighter moments were tinged with tension.

Amid a furor over Trump's unfounded allegations that he was wiretapped by Obama, the new president cracked a joke referring to past revelations that Merkel's phone had also been bugged by his Democratic predecessor.

“As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps,” he said.

Merkel appeared not to find the humor in what had been a major political scandal. And neither side tried to make small talk about Trump's own background.

His family hails from Kallstadt, a tidy village nestled in southwest Germany's lush wine country. His grandparents left for America more than a century ago fleeing poverty and later, after a brief return, trouble with the law.

Voice of Europe

Although Trump has tempered his criticism of Nato and the personal attacks against European leaders, officials still fret that Trump has too closely embraced the nationalist ideology of key advisor Steve Bannon.

Bannon has championed trade protectionism and opposed the European Union and other multilateral institutions that underpin the world order.

Trump on Friday pledged to “respect historic institutions” but Bannon, also in the East Room, gave a chuckle as Merkel was asked whether she believed Trump had lied and treated the European Union disrespectfully.

Trump insisted he was not isolationist, saying: “I'm a free trader but also a fair trader.”

Merkel rejected Trump's suggestion that individual European countries should negotiate free trade deals with the US, rather than under existing EU-US negotiations.

“I hope we can come back to the table and talk about the agreement” between the EU and US, she said.

Trump departed Washington later Friday, arriving in Florida where he will spend the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago estate, accompanied by his youngest son Barron, wife Melania and the first lady's parents.

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Comments (70) Closed



Ahmed bin Babar Mar 18, 2017 11:26am

This tussle shall only benefit the 3rd contender...

anum Mar 18, 2017 11:31am

what a spoilt brat

Tariq Mar 18, 2017 11:33am

Mr. Trump must not forget the good manners regardless of him differences.

Berry Mar 18, 2017 11:36am

He needs to mature and grow up!

MJK Mar 18, 2017 11:58am

All those who voted for him did not realize that he is spoiled multi millionaire who acts like a CEO of a big corporation. His mindset has n't changed . He has not realized that there is a difference between the life in Trump Tower and life in the White House.

Waaris Mar 18, 2017 12:09pm

Trump represents Americans and his behaviour towards Merkel shows the nasty and rude side of Americans.

Shahzad Mar 18, 2017 12:09pm

This is for sure Mr Tump era will not make America great neither within nor outside.

BAXAR Mar 18, 2017 12:24pm

@Waaris "Trump represents Americans and his behaviour towards Merkel shows the nasty and rude side of Americans." It is neither nasty or rude (it doesn't mean anything in diplomatic language), it is a signal from the US to it's allies. A signal about how they see the future world. The only interpretation can be that, the future world will not be the same so better prepare yourselves.

asim Mar 18, 2017 12:31pm

I'm ok with it.

xyz Mar 18, 2017 12:32pm

Wake up Trump........The TV Show is over............I think he does not know his scope of work.......He is going to make America_____ again!!!

SMI Mar 18, 2017 12:41pm

Very insulting !!

lafanga Mar 18, 2017 01:15pm

soon America will be isolated.

M.Saeed Mar 18, 2017 01:22pm

Trump is ruthlessly proud and discourteous, as clearly visible in the picture.

Antony Ooty Mar 18, 2017 01:46pm

Trump is still in election mode and he has treated Merkel as he would have treated Hillary. Mr. Trump you are the president of the United States of America. Maintain the dignity the office you occupy.

The end is near Mar 18, 2017 01:56pm

Donald Trump must learn how to behave as a country's president. Trump's roots Are in Germany And its not Merkel's fault that Trump's grandparents died poor. Merkel is running the whole Europe successfully and she is very bold, intelligent, visionary, honest, Hard working and friendly politician.

Dr. Salaria, Aamir Ahmad Mar 18, 2017 01:53pm

What a silly joke?

Trump Mar 18, 2017 02:15pm

My wife dont like that i shake hand with other women...that why i cant. Dont judge me.

Chodhary Mar 18, 2017 02:18pm

The world is full of hypocrite politicians who promise something and deliver something completely opposite and show no remorse at all... but here's a guy who is actually delivering what he promised, regardless of his ideology, he deserves praise for his honesty at least.

Falcon1 Mar 18, 2017 02:53pm

Trump is behaves like an insecure school boy around intelligent and powerful people. He can't even make articulate and coherent statements without reading from a teleprompter or paper in front of him, a speech that someone else wrote for him. Every other blabber is as unintelligent as a a door knob - all revolving around wire taps, fake news, media and Fox News. Nothing that comes from his own mind and his mouth shows that he is fit to be in the White House.

Clumsy, uncouth and unpolished - despite his wealth!

rich Mar 18, 2017 02:55pm

people comment below do not understand politic

germans did not vote for trump american did, he will world for them and not please the germans

remmember this is merkel last term, she will not be elected, so y should he bother with her, if she does not agree with him

plus she was anti trump, pro democrat, so what she expects?

its good time to be friends of america, as he fights with europe, indian, japanes ect will benefit

habibullah naviwala Mar 18, 2017 02:55pm

President Trump is lacking Presidential manners and spoiling the relationships with EU family in which the third player in this chase game would score and that would tarnish image of USA in the world Trump does not fit in the Presidential stature

Lafanga Mar 18, 2017 02:59pm

That is just bad manners to treat a invited guest like this in your house. Trump needs to learn he is POTUS and not some judge in a beauty contest.

ABE Mar 18, 2017 03:15pm

@rich What a stupid comment! You have no idea what you are talking about....

Merkel is in a much more stronger position and will be re-elected because she leads the strongest economy in Europe. Far right in Austria and Holland have been defeated. Same will be the outcome in France and Germany. Merkel will still be around even after Trump is gone.

You want rest of the world to support Trump because he wants to fight with Indians, Chinese, EU, Japanese - which he is not!? Little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

ak Mar 18, 2017 03:48pm

Oooo Hell yeah. I know all this is un-acceptable but just look at him, looks like a 3rd grader who is giving evilish superior smiles cuz the teacher winked at him.

praveen Mar 18, 2017 04:19pm

US may lose many partners if POTUS is doing like this.....

Ikram Mar 18, 2017 04:32pm

Germany can survive without the US unlike Pakistan. She should have ignored the diplomatic norms and just stay put in her own country.

farid Mar 18, 2017 04:35pm

Trump, A twelve years old president.Grow up man, as they say in the US.

ABE Mar 18, 2017 04:45pm

A juvenile in the White House, surrounded by other school boys and girls, with little decorum or experience in government. Much less understanding of protocol when dealing with foreign leaders. Most intelligent Americans are embarrassed by his antics before the press, in the presence of foreign leaders and on Twitter.

Wait till he creates a fiasco during his first overseas visit. Many American old-hand experienced diplomats at the State Dept. had already resigned before he even moved into the White House, to distance themselves from his admin. After the debacle on foreign soil, even the present cabinet members will abandon him.

PIVoT Mar 18, 2017 04:51pm

Although they look bro and sis!

Apache_indian Mar 18, 2017 04:56pm

I am okay with it. She is destroying Europe by surrendering to Erdogan.

KHK Mar 18, 2017 05:32pm

@Waaris Have you lived among Americans? They are the nicest people on earth if you are good to them.

Mohammad Baig Mar 18, 2017 05:45pm

We must see what happens next because much more is in the pipeline.

ga Mar 18, 2017 05:51pm

This is how businessmen negotiate deals. however, this is politics and public humiliation of another leader can hurt relations between countries.

Hemu Mar 18, 2017 06:09pm

I love this man...such a royal arrogance

Talha Mar 18, 2017 06:33pm

This guy has no manners n respect for women

Princess_of_DHUMP Mar 18, 2017 06:45pm

Come on Donald, just shake the hand. This is for the scrap book. We will get you an ice cream afterwards!

Indian Mar 18, 2017 07:07pm

What an arrogant man

Hidden truth Mar 18, 2017 07:29pm

Trump is an enigma, not to be solved but to be tolerated.

IztraaB Mar 18, 2017 07:25pm

This guy is a joke!

S.A.Hyder, PH.d. Mar 18, 2017 07:35pm

@Tariq : What 'Good Manners'? Neither of these words exist in Trump's dictionary. He is neither good nor has manners.

S.A.Hyder, PH.d. Mar 18, 2017 07:39pm

Trump did not shake hands with Merkel because she is not his 'Mehrum'. Simple as that !! What is the big fuss?

AXH Mar 18, 2017 08:08pm

With his childish behavior and rude demeanor, he is definitely making America great again.

AbE Mar 18, 2017 09:15pm

Trumps behavior is just like the powerful in Pakistan

Ali Mar 18, 2017 11:25pm

The world is watching the mannerism wow

El Cid Mar 18, 2017 11:24pm

The photo says it all. He is no gentleman much less presidential.

El Cid Mar 18, 2017 11:30pm

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a PhD in Physics, a lady of grace and a humanitarian. President Trump, an embarrassment at best.

Amer RAo Mar 18, 2017 11:50pm

Nobody taught him presidential manners?

Zak Mar 18, 2017 11:54pm

Middle East burning, Dissension in west. And the year has just begun.

re Mar 19, 2017 12:38am

OMG! What an arrogant person is Trump! He has no manners and respect for a woman. Merkel is such a kind and brilliant lady.

Bond Mar 19, 2017 12:55am

@ S.A.Hyder, PH.d. . Why is it an issue if they shake hands or not. Would like to know if KSA kings' wives will shake hands with guests. Also wait for the results from Germany's next election and see the results whether her country supports her for letting muslims in such large number occupy their country as refugees and cause trouble there

asad lateef Mar 19, 2017 01:26am

A emperor without clothes,even half empty brain knows it

Alba Mar 19, 2017 04:01am

Trump's feelings about Merkel are inversely proportional to those of Obama. Anything Obama likes Trump hates. It is a matter of principle.

Muslim Medina Mar 19, 2017 05:12am

Even though he is president of a democratic country, Trump is acting more like a dictator.

Nawaz Mar 19, 2017 05:18am

No matter whom you are meeting. No matter what differences you have yet them. A guest is a guest and should be treated with utmost respect. These are basic human values that are above and beyond any faith, nationalistic and political considerations.

AR Mar 19, 2017 06:42am

Trump is enough for USA's downfall.

iqbal khan Mar 19, 2017 07:04am

I guess this quote explains everything :

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. Abraham Lincoln

khakanbabar Mar 19, 2017 10:12am

@MJK You must be referring to Nawaz Sharif

khakanbabar Mar 19, 2017 10:14am

@BAXAR Agreed.

otm Mar 19, 2017 12:48pm

@Bond I can't believe you missed the joke!

white noise Mar 19, 2017 02:00pm

someone should tell him about 16+ trillion $ his country owes to the world

white noise Mar 19, 2017 02:05pm

@Chodhary a conman is always honest about his con, its the public that get sucked into the con, so yes, Americans have elected a conman so they should not cry now

harris Mar 19, 2017 03:26pm

The American people had spoken and elected a leader who reflects their opinions and aspirations... Yes, he is not an internationalist and does not want to be "politically correct"..

S.A.Hyder, PH.d. Mar 20, 2017 12:28am

@Bond We are not discussing the SA King's wives actions. They do not shake hands with any one. Emperor Trump shakes hands with billionaires ONLY. Others are below his class with whom he shakes hands only at election time.

Kolsat Mar 20, 2017 01:05am

@The end is near: Trump and those who think the USA will be great should read Thomas Frank who lays down reasons why America's good days are over. Trump has promised that he will make sure that those who want to work will get work. He does not say how he will do that.

Lakhie Mar 20, 2017 06:57am

I think he is as nice as we are to our countries. He wants to remove united states from the mess it was pushed to by previous governments... He aims not to waste money and American soldiers by attacking other countries.... He is doing great things for his country.

dynaimte Mar 20, 2017 11:16am

Impeachment is looming on him and getting closer day by day

Ali Mar 20, 2017 12:51pm

That is very rude of useless American president.

BNJ Mar 20, 2017 02:34pm

Whatever the world may say but this man is a nationalist!

S.A.Hyder, PH.d. Mar 20, 2017 06:36pm

@Kolsat: Easy! He will employ them to build the 'Great Wall' !!

Aliya Bibi Mar 21, 2017 01:07am

Trump is going to make America great again!!