Trump, Merkel focus on 'shared priorities' in meeting

Trump, Merkel focus on 'shared priorities' in meeting
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The White House said Thursday that President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel conferred Thursday on “a range of shared foreign and security policy priorities,” as the two leaders with a famously frosty relationship sought common ground ahead of the G-20 Summit meetings in Germany.

Trump and Merkel have wildly different views on trade, immigration, energy policy and globalization.

Instead of discussing those issues, Trump and Merkel focused on ending fighting between Russia and Ukraine, the conflict between Qatar and its neighbors in the Middle East, and denuclearizing the Korean Peninsula, according to the White House readout of their meeting.

There were no other details of the private meeting between the two world leaders, who have taken shots at one another in public speeches. When Merkel visited Trump at the White House in March, their body language betrayed the tension between the two, with the fact that they did not shake hands making international headlines.

The scene was different on Thursday in Hamburg, as the two gripped hands and made small talk as the cameras flashed before they entered the Hotel Atlantic Kempinski in Hamburg.

Outside, thousands of anti-globalist protesters participating in a “Welcome to Hell” rally clashed with police, who unloaded water cannons and smoke bombs on the crowd.

In an interview on MSNBC, Peter Wittig, the German ambassador to the U.S., said tensions between the two — and the handshake that never happened — had been overplayed.

“The handshake that never took place in Washington — that was overblown and didn't correspond to the friendliness of the meeting,” Wittig said. “It was productive in Washington. Both of them were satisfied. So don't read too much into that. They have a good and productive relationship, and the chancellor will go out of her way to turn this important G-20 summit … into a success. She will work to forge compromise.”

Still, the relationship between Trump and Merkel has been tense at times and defined by their diametrically opposed worldviews.

Trump has been highly critical of Merkel’s immigration policies, saying that her open-borders policy has led to an immigration crisis in which potentially dangerous people from Middle Eastern countries have failed to assimilate. 

Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accord earlier this year has angered U.S. allies in Europe that were part of the pact.

And the president has advocated for protectionism over globalism, is urging Germany to contribute more money to NATO, and has expressed displeasure with what he views as a trade imbalance with Germany that is detrimental to the U.S.

Merkel, meanwhile, jabbed at Trump in a speech at NATO headquarters this year, saying “the building of walls” is detrimental to society.

She declared in a second speech that Germany can no longer “completely depend” on the U.S. as a reliable ally.

"The times in which we could completely depend on others are on the way out," Merkel said at a campaign rally shortly after meeting with Trump. "I've experienced that in the last few days."

In a well-received speech in Warsaw, Poland, on Thursday morning, Trump underscored his commitment to Western values from Krasinski Square, where a monument to the 1944 Warsaw Uprising against German occupation stands.

“The West will never, ever be broken,” Trump said. “Our values will prevail, our people will thrive, and our civilization will triumph.”