President Trump on Friday is set to welcome Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel to the White House in what is expected to be an amicable encounter despite Trump’s campaign criticism about her “ruining” Germany.
Merkel was reportedly on her way to the airport Monday to fly to Washington when Trump called her to postpone the trip due to the impending snow storm that blanketed the Northeast. The cancelation was seen by some as a metaphor for the current U.S.-German relationship.
The meeting is one of the more highly anticipated ones of Trump’s young presidency. Politico posted a picture of Merkel and blared a headline, “The Leader of the Free World Meets Donald Trump.”
“She’s used to awkward meetings,” Constanze Stelzenmueller, an expert on German and trans-Atlantic policy at the Brookings Institution, told McClatchy. “She’s handled them quite well. You don’t linger over the personal.”
The encounter will be aimed at building a personal rapport with a European partner who was among former President Obama’s strongest allies and international confidantes, White House officials told the Associated Press earlier this month.
The two are expected to discuss strengthening the NATO alliance, collaborating to fight terrorism and taking steps to resolve the conflict in Ukraine. The BBC reported that the two will also discuss transatlantic trade. Merkel will be joined by top officials at German companies including Siemens and BMW.
Merkel reportedly said that the German relationship with the U.S. is important and a two-way street. She said a BMW plant in the U.S. exported “more cars than GM and Ford together” from the U.S. Officials told Reuters that Merkel has prepared carefully for the meeting.
Trump has not been shy in his criticism of the European Union’s immigration policy, and Merkel has criticized Trump’s travel ban.
Trump frequently criticized Merkel during his presidential campaign, accusing her of “ruining Germany” by taking in large numbers of refugees. Merkel, who wields significant sway in Europe, was critical of Trump’s refugee and immigration travel ban, which was blocked by the courts.
Merkel, who is seeking reelection later this year, reportedly told a German newspaper, “It’s always better to talk with each other than about each other.”
Bloomberg reported that a day before Merkel left for her U.S. visit, she spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping to reaffirm “their common support for free trade and open markets.” The report pointed out that the partnership has gained significance since Trump was elected.
Peter Wittig, Germany’s ambassador to the U.S., told PBS that he believes Merkel is interested in forming a “strong, constructive” relationship with Trump.
“And she has said many times she will not go back to the campaign, but will want to engage with him in a constructive manner,” he said. “And I think that’s what we want to see tomorrow.”