BERLIN – Germany will seek common ground “wherever possible” with U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Monday, despite differences over Trump’s entry ban for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries.
Germany has Europe’s biggest economy. The United States was its largest single trading partner in 2015, with German exports significantly outweighing imports from America, and there’s concern in Berlin over the possibility of a more protectionist approach in Washington.
“We will try to find common ground wherever possible,” Merkel told reporters in Munich. She stressed the importance of NATO, and acknowledged the need for Germany to “do more in the area of defense.”
President Barack Obama also pressed European NATO allies to boost their defense spending, “but it is now gaining yet more significance,” Merkel said.
“We will see, issue by issue, where we can cooperate and where we have different opinions,” she added of the Trump administration. “But it’s in Germany’s interest to strengthen the common ground there is, where possible, on our part — from the cooperation of intelligence services to defense questions and, of course, the fact that the United States is the biggest trading partner for Germany.”
Trump has in the past called NATO “obsolete.” However, the White House said after the two leaders spoke a week ago that he and Merkel agree on the “fundamental importance” of NATO to trans-Atlantic relations.
Merkel has criticized the immigration restrictions imposed by Trump, but otherwise has been restrained in commenting on the new U.S. administration.
Asked Monday whether German companies and banks need to be shielded from possible U.S. protectionist measures, she replied, “I have no reason to speculate.”
“We must see what the American administration does, and then will have to consider whether we react or don’t react,” she said. Merkel underlined her commitment to multilateralism and trade agreements.