Trump tweets back at Merkel
US President Donald Trump has criticised Germany for its trade surplus and military spending levels, after German Chancellor Angela Merkel raised doubts about the reliability of Washington as an ally.
Trump tweeted: “We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military. Very bad for U.S. This will change.”
Trump was referring to a commitment made by Nato members in 2014 to spend 2 per cent of their GDP on defence. Germany currently spends 1.2 per cent on its armed forces and it acknowledges it is unlikely to reach 2 per cent until 2024. Merkel has said that spending on development aid and crisis prevention should be included in the spending figure.
Germany does have a substantial trade surplus with the US, driven by its export-led growth. Berlin argues that the auto sector, which appears to be Trump’s focal point, is based in the US. Germany says BMW and Mercedes make most of their cars for the American market in the US, employing thousands of Americans and leading US vehicle exports to the rest of the Americas.
Merkel raised fears about US reluctance to back the Paris Agreement on climate change at the G7 summit last weekend.
“The entire discussion about climate was very difficult, if not to say very dissatisfying,” the veteran chancellor said. “There are no indications whether the United States will stay in the Paris Agreement or not.”
Speaking at a conference on sustainable development in Berlin, she again voiced concerns about bilateral tensions, saying it was important for Germany not to gloss over the differences.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that Trump’s actions had “weakened” the west.
Trump’s omission of a clear commitment to collective defence and his attacks on European leaders for their military spending at a Nato summit exposed the extent of the divide. Last week’s diplomatic woes were capped by his refusal to join the rest of the G7 in Sicily in a commitment to the Paris agreement to address climate change.
“I thought it was the least effective visit of any American president to Europe since the 1940s,” said Nicholas Burns, a former undersecretary of state for political affairs. “I couldn’t think of another visit that was so fraught with difficulties, deep substantial division, disregard and disrespect.”
Germany’s military has limited deployment capabilities after decades of under-funding. Picture credit: Flickr