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For the Germans, yesterday's working session between Donald Trump and Angela Merkel in the White House turned out to be unexpectedly warm and sometimes strange.
The Chancellor, who is usually reserved, looked surprised when Donald Trump greeted them with a kiss on each cheek, a move that the President seemed to have picked up by the French on the first state visit to their President Emmanuel Macron earlier this week ,
However, it is not a German tradition, and the Pecks drew on German commentary, including the boulevard giant image which in a video on the intimate greeting as the "first surprise" of the Trump-Merkel meeting pointed out
More surprises followed, including Trump repeatedly shaking Merkel's hand. (Her first meeting is best remembered for his lack of shaking hands). The President also raved about the Chancellor, who won a fourth term.
He even seemed to take Merkel's trademark – known in Germany as the "diamond" – by pressing his fingertips into a diamond shape.
The intensive German investigation of such optics may seem superficial, but is not surprising, since the two-hour conversation between Trump and Merkel brought no tangible results. Not that the Chancellor, her government or the German public really expected anything.
Even senior German officials traveling to Washington on Thursday said they expected US tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports to come into force as planned on May 1.
"The entire visit for Merkel – even more than for Macron – was about mitigation," said Olaf Boehnke, Berlin consultant to consulting firm Rasmussen Global in Copenhagen. He added that he "could not see that Merkel really sacrificed any positions that would cause her trouble."
According to a recent poll by YouGov for the German news agency DPA, 39 percent of Germans believe that their government should criticize Trump's policies more.
Months of transatlantic conversation and European petitions and threats have not changed Trump's conviction that the EU and Germany – the Union's economic powerhouse – treat the US unfairly as they trade and let Washington cede the bill to NATO.
Senior German officials said Merkel's goal during yesterday's meeting was to connect with him. In their speeches to the president, German investment in the US is more than double that of the US: $ 328.9 billion compared to $ 136.4 billion, Merkel also said about German car makers, the 480,000 cars their works exported to the US for the rest of the world, which creates jobs and income for Americans.
However, the German presentation did not seem to move the US president, and in his joint press conference with Merkel he again called for a "fair and reciprocal trade relationship".
"We have a trade deficit in goods with the European Union of approximately $ 151 billion a year, including a $ 50 billion annual trade deficit on cars and auto parts," Trump said.
Merkel and Macron can also give Trump a guarantee that he will not leave the Iranian nuclear program on May 12. This prospect is particularly worrying for the EU given the lucrative business that European companies have been doing since the sanctions were lifted with Iran. 19659008] Merkel supports the idea of additional measures to contain the Iranian ballistic missile program and its regional activities and refers to the Nuclear Agreement, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). as a "building block".
Germany's planned $ 18 billion increase in defense expenditures over the next three years did not impress Trump, even though it was a difficult concession Merkel and her party had suffered from social democrats during their coalition talks earlier this year.
At yesterday's press conference, Trump reiterated his demand that all NATO partners spend at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense spending, including Germany. In view of the booming German economy, the proportion of the budget spent on defense has fallen below 1.2 percent.
Merkel struggled to maintain her usual poker face during the meandering press conference. Sometimes, while Trump spoke, she grinned or looked confused. But many German analysts still declared the encounter a success.
"Many key questions are still open, but it is not the full-blown disaster some people feared," said Constanze Stelzenmüller, Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution.
It also showed Merkel's "ability to stay in a situation that looks like a truly loss-making situation, and to get back something where she is actually regaining ground – it seems – in relation to a relationship that is bad and inevitable looks, "she said. "And she made it clear that she can connect with Trump, which is more than many of us expected."
The German Michael correspondent Michael Knigge added in a Friday statement: "Merkel and Trump have had such a warm meeting in spite of their previous bruises personally and via Twitter, making their brief gathering even more significant than the state visit by Macron, who simply clicks on a personal level with Trump.
"To be blunt, no one knows if the US leader's gentle attitude towards Merkel and Germany will soon be swept away by a presidential tweet storm," wrote Knigge. But a solid or at least decent cooperation between the Chancellor and the President is clearly interested in Berlin, Washington and Brussels. So let us enjoy it as long as it lasts. "