Shift in US-German relations after a year of Trump

By Updated at 2018-04-27 02:44:24 +0000


Germany and the United States of America remain close allies, but since the election of Donald J Trump, disagreements have emerged on key policies. The shift could be seen as seismic.

Former US president Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had a productive and open relationship while they were both in office which was based on mutual cooperation. Trump has pitted US interests against German ones. In response Merkel has also changed her tone.

A look at some of the most contentious issues:


The Iran nuclear deal

Germany is a firm believer in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the 2015 deal between Iran and the EU, Russia, China and the US in which Tehran pledged to restrict its nuclear program and not to develop nuclear weapons in return for the relaxation of UN, EU and US sanctions.

Trump has characterized the JCPOA as the "worst deal ever" and accused the Iranian government of failing to abide by its provisions. The president has refused to certify the agreement, which is required every 120 days, but has stopped short of formally scrapping the deal.

However, he has threatened to re-impose secondary sanctions on countries doing business with Iran, which would essentially scupper the agreement. Germany and its EU partners would like to prevent this.


Trade imbalances and tariffs

Trump accuses the EU and Germany in particular of maintaining unfair economic policies toward the US, citing as evidence America's $64-billion-dollar (€52.5 billion) trade deficit as evidence of the alleged inequity.

He has threatened to impose tariffs on imports of European steel to the US as of May 1 and has singled out German cars as a potential target of other, further punitive action. More broadly, Trump's economic protectionism has led to the suspension of negotiations over the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

Germany supports global free trade and would love to see a revival of TTIP, which the European Commission says would boost the EU's economy by €120 billion and America's by €90 billion. Germany points out that EU tariffs on American goods as a whole entering the bloc are slightly lower than US tariffs on EU products.

Germany has indicated a willingness to renegotiate tariff agreements, the last of which was reached in 1994, but has threatened to respond in kind with duties on US products like motorcycles, blue jeans and bourbon whiskey, should Trump start a trade war.


Migrants and refugees

Nowhere is the contrast between Germany under Angela Merkel and the US under Trump starker than on the issue of migrants and refugees. Where as the populist president campaigned on a promise to build a wall between the US and Mexico to keep out illegal aliens, the centrist chancellor adopted a welcoming policy to the refugee "crisis" of 2015-16.

Shortly after his election victory, Trump told Germany's "Bild" newspaper that Merkel had made "a catastrophic mistake by letting all these illegals into the country." For her part, Merkel has said that a wall on America's southern border would "not solve the problem" of illegal immigration.


The environment

Germany is one of the world's leading advocates of the Paris Agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change, calling it "irreversible," although Berlin now acknowledges that Germany itself will not meet the targets for 2020 set out by that deal .

Trump has announced that the US will withdraw from that agreement in November 2020, the earliest possible opportunity for him to do so. While he has flirted with the chance that America could re-enter the deal, Germany has by and large accepted that Trump is unlikely to change his mind on the issue.


Defense spending

Trump has accused Germany, most prominently among NATO members, of under-spending on defense — in essence freeloading off America's comparatively massive military expenditures. The US President wants to see Germany commit two percent of its GDP on defense in line with a goal set by NATO member states in 2014.

Germany currently spends about 1.2 percent of its GDP (around €37 billion or $45 billion) on defense. The agreement reached by Angela Merkel's latest governing coalition will see those expenditures rise slightly, but not to anywhere near the two percent Trump wants. Berlin argues that the relatively large sums it spends on developmental aid (€23.3 billion in 2016) help prevent conflict around the world and should be taken into account as a contribution to international security.

German Carnival - Trump sodomized by Russian bear.

Germany's gas pipeline with Russia

Trump has been heavily critical of Berlin's plans for a second natural-gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea connecting Russia with Germany, saying that it would increase German and European dependence upon the Kremlin. Germany would end of paying "billions of dollars" to Russia, Trump claimed, adding "That's not right."

Eastern EU members states Trump's concerns about the German-Russian natural-gas connection, while Germany has accused Washington of being motivated by a desire to export American liquefied natural gas.

The Germany's public international broadcaster-DW