Biden meets with Merkel in German leader's last official trip to Washington

Biden meets with Merkel in German leader's last official trip to Washington
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President BidenJoe BidenBriahna Joy Gray: White House thinks extending student loan pause is a 'bad look' Biden to meet with 11 Democratic lawmakers on DACA: report Former New York state Senate candidate charged in riot MORE on Thursday hosted German Chancellor Angela Merkel for her last official visit to Washington and his first White House meeting with a European head of state since taking office.

The two leaders affirmed the close bond between the U.S. and Germany — after four years of tumult under former President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York state Senate candidate charged in riot Trump called acting attorney general almost daily to push election voter fraud claim: report GOP senator clashes with radio caller who wants identity of cop who shot Babbitt MORE — in wide-ranging discussions that covered climate change, COVID-19, and economic and security cooperation.

The two struck a friendly tone throughout the visit, a stark contrast from Trump's criticism of Merkel throughout his time in office over NATO contributions, trade issues and the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. Biden opened his remarks at a joint press conference by quipping that the chancellor was more familiar with the Oval Office than he was following years of visits to the White House spanning four administrations.

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Merkel, asked to compare her meeting with Biden to those with Trump, would not take the bait, saying only that Thursday’s visit was “a very friendly exchange.”

“Any German chancellor has a vested interest to … work and talk together with any American president,” Merkel said through an interpreter.

Still, the two leaders acknowledged differences on Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which would transfer gas directly to Germany. The Biden administration waived sanctions on the pipeline project earlier this year in what was widely seen as a move meant to avoid tensions with Germany.

“While I reiterated my concerns about Nord Stream to Chancellor Merkel, we are absolutely united in our conviction that Russia must not be allowed to use energy as a weapon to coerce or threaten its neighbors,” Biden said at the news conference.

Merkel said the two countries have come to “different assessments as to what this project entails” but she said Germany views Ukraine as a transit country for natural gas. Merkel also said that Germany would act “should Russia not respect this right of Ukraine that it has as a transit country.”

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Biden and Merkel announced the formation of a U.S.-German Futures Forum and economic dialogue intended to guide the two countries forward on issues like technology, democratic principles and global partnerships with groups like the European Union and NATO.

“Since the end of World War II, countless people from all walks of life — including business and science, civilian and in uniform, civil society organizations, think tanks and academic networks — have strengthened and deepened the bond between our two nations,” the two leaders said in a joint declaration.

The two allies will also launch a joint climate partnership with a focus on achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in their respective economies no later than 2050. The initiative will be led on the U.S. side by special envoy for climate John KerryJohn KerryHow the US could help Australia develop climate action Equilibrium/ Sustainability — Presented by NextEra Energy — Clean power repurposes dirty power No. 2 State Department official to travel to China amid tensions MORE and Energy Secretary Jennifer GranholmJennifer GranholmEnergy chief touts electric vehicle funding in Senate plan OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Western wildfires prompt evacuations in California, Oregon| House passes bill requiring EPA to regulate 'forever chemicals' in drinking water | Granholm announces new building energy codes Granholm announces new building energy codes MORE.

Through the climate initiative, the two governments will work to reduce emissions, develop and deploy renewable energy through new technology and invest in sustainable energy sources throughout Europe and Asia in a bid to get the world closer to net-zero emissions.

The two leaders also stressed the importance of standing up for democratic values and human rights in the context of China, Germany’s largest trade partner, which has faced pushback from the West over its human rights abuses and unfair economic practices. Merkel said she and Biden discussed both “competition” and “cooperation” with China.

“We are countries who stand up for free, democratic societies,” Merkel said. “Wherever human rights are not guaranteed, we will make our voices heard.”

The new Washington Doctrine issued by the two countries Thursday does not mention China specifically but says the U.S. and Germany will “work together to ensure that the rules, norms, and standards that govern emerging technologies are channeled toward freedom rather than repression” and “resist the use and spread of surveillance technologies to improperly restrict the exercise of human rights.”

The meetings culminated in a dinner at the White House attended by Biden, first lady Jill BidenJill BidenJill Biden's chief of staff picked for US ambassador to Spain Anita Dunn to return to consulting firm she founded US athletes chant 'Dr. Biden' as first lady cheers swimmers MORE, Vice President Harris and numerous current and former officials, including former Secretary of State Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden says Russia spreading misinformation ahead of 2022 elections Highest-ranking GOP assemblyman in WI against another audit of 2020 vote Women's March endorses Nina Turner in first-ever electoral endorsement MORE and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell: 'It never occurred to me' convincing Americans to get vaccinated would be difficult The 17 Republicans who voted to advance the Senate infrastructure bill Senate votes to take up infrastructure deal MORE (R-Ky.). 

Merkel has been in office for 16 years and has worked with four U.S. presidents. She is not seeking another term in Germany’s September elections, meaning Thursday's visit will likely be her last official trip to Washington as chancellor.

Biden made a point in his remarks to commend Merkel for boosting the U.S.-Germany relationship throughout her tenure.

“On a personal note, I must tell you I will miss seeing you at our summits,” he said.