- REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
- A meeting between President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel led to a conversation between the two leaders that White House officials reportedly said was “humiliating” to Trump.
- During an exchange between Trump and Merkel in which they discussed the possibility of a trade agreement, Merkel had to explain to Trump why Germany could not negotiate a bilateral deal for itself with the US.
- Germany is a member of the European Union. Only the EU can negotiate on behalf of its 27 member nations.
When President Donald Trump met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House in March, the face time between the two world leaders grabbed headlines in part because of one awkward exchange photographers captured during the meeting.
Trump and Merkel did not shake hands, even as people in the room verbally prodded them.
But White House officials reportedly said another moment between the US president and the German chancellor was “humiliating” to Trump. When he asked Merkel about negotiating a bilateral trade agreement with Germany, Merkel had to explain multiple times to Trump that such an agreement was not possible with Germany alone, according to a New York Times report published Thursday.
As part of the European Union, Germany cannot engage in bilateral trade talks for itself with the US. Only the EU can negotiate on behalf of its 27 other member nations.
Trump asked: “So it could be bilateral?” Merkel reportedly nodded in response to the question, The Times said, citing several people who were in the room. The newspaper said Trump then turned to commerce secretary Wilbur Ross and said, “we’ll negotiate a bilateral trade deal with Europe.”
German officials were reportedly rattled by the president’s lack of knowledge on world affairs. During one of Trump and Merkel’s first phone calls, Merkel reportedly had to explain the history of Ukraine to Trump, who was said to be unaware of the country’s importance in trans-Atlantic relations.
Trump has been unabashed about his stature as a political outsider and his administration’s goal to shake up the traditional world order. But the strategy has not been entirely successful, and experts have warned that some of the Trump administration’s moves could do more harm than good.