US President Donald Trump has literally showered praise German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a meeting in Japan. “She’s a fantastic person, a fantastic woman, and I’m glad to have her as a friend,” said Trump at the start of the encounter on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Japan.
Merkel responded rather soberly to Trump’s declaration of friendship: she thanked the president – and promptly passed on the topic of economic relations.
Angela Merkel wanted to mention that “German economy is investing heavily in the United States,” Trump also praised the economic relations. Bilateral trade has reached “a high level” and will continue to grow.
Controversial topics such as climate policy or defense spending saved both politicians to welcome. In the past, Trump had repeatedly criticized the Chancellor and her government – some very sharp comments.
Something irritated seemed Merkel when Trump suddenly came to speak of American domestic politics and mentioned the opposition Democrats’ candidate TV debate. The president accused them of wanting to help “illegal immigrants” with health insurance. At bilateral meetings of heads of state and government, such domestic digressions are actually unusual.
Trump turned to Merkel and explained: “You know, there is a debate going on here.” But this was “not very exciting”. Merkel consistently avoided eye contact with Trump during these remarks.