Donald Trump holds maiden talks with Angela Merkel, denies handshake, says he is not an isolationist

Washington: US President Donald Trump on Saturday welcomed German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the White House for talks expected to focus on their differences over NATO, Russia, global trade and a host of other issues.

The two leaders shook hands and smiled for the cameras before entering the West Wing. Although after the meeting concluded, Merkel asked Trump for a handshake to which Trump remained mum and denied it with his silence.

The Oval Office meeting had been scheduled for Tuesday before a major snowstorm in the eastern United States forced a postponement.

During the meeting, President Trump dismissed the notion that he was an “isolationist” in his policies, as he asserted that Germany and the US must work together towards fair and reciprocal trade policies.

“My administration is in the process of rebuilding the American industrial base. A stronger America is in the interest, believe me, of the world as a whole,” Trump told reporters at a joint news conference with the visiting German Chancellor Merkel.

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Germany and the United States, he said, must work together towards fair and reciprocal trade policies that benefit people of both the countries.

“Millions of hard-working US citizens have been left behind by international commerce, and together, we can shape a future where all of our citizens have a path to financial security. The United States will respect historic institutions and we will also recognise the right of free people to manage their own destiny,” Trump said.

On immigration, another issue dividing Merkel and the new US president, Trump said immigration was a “privilege” and not a “right.”

Responding to a question, Trump refuted the impression that he is an isolationist.

“I don’t believe in an isolationist policy. But I also believe a policy of trade should be a fair policy. The United States has been treated very, very unfairly by many countries over the years. That’s going to stop. But I’m not an isolationist,” he said.

“I’m a free trader, but I’m also a fair trader. Our free trade has led to a lot of bad things happening. You look at the deficits that we have, and you look at all of the accumulation of debt. We’re a very powerful country. We’re a very strong country,” said the US President.

The two leaders addressed a joint press conference after their meeting at the Oval Office—the first between them.

Trump agreed to attend the G-20 Summit in Germany later this year, Merkel said. The two leaders were to discuss the economic issues over lunch after the briefing.

“We’re going to talk at some length over lunch about the issues. We say trade has to be rendered fairer. There has to be a win-win situation. We can talk about the details of that,” Merkel said.

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“We’ve already seen today when we had an exchange with our CEOs and also with our apprentices what sort of potential we can tap, what sort of potential our two economies have,” Merkel said.

“It’s very moving to see, particularly meeting with these young people, what sort of work towards the future is being done by our companies there,” she said, adding that the two countries would continue their cooperation on a number of issues.

Merkel said she had a very good first exchange of views with Trump and was looking forward to the talks over lunch.