Donald Trump, Angela Merkel met first time, tensions grips the show

Washington: Differences shown between US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on various issues during an icy first meeting at the White House on Friday. In a frequently awkward joint press conference, Mr Trump and Ms Merkel showed little common ground as they addressed a host of thorny issues including NATO, defense spending and free trade deals.

The German chancellor had arrived at a snowy White House, hoping to reverse a chill in relations after Mr 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, Ms Merkel’s suggestion of another handshake went unheard or ignored by Mr Trump – an awkward moment in what are usually highly scripted occasions.

Before coming to office in January, Mr Trump had set the tone by calling Ms Merkel’s acceptance of refugees a “catastrophic mistake” and suggestion she was “ruining Germany.”

In a similar vein, Ms 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 Mr Trump’s fiercest critics to declare Ms Merkel the new “leader of the free world” – a moniker normally taken up by the occupant of the White House.

During the press conference, Ms 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 Mr Trump’s unfounded allegations that he was wiretapped by Mr Obama, the new president cracked a joke referring to past revelations that Ms 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.

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

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

Ms Merkel rejected Mr Trump’s suggestion that individual European countries should negotiate free trade deals with the United States, 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 Uttar Pradesh

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