Merkel's Low-Key Visit With Trump Focuses On Trade, Foreign Policy The leaders spoke to reporters at the White House after meetings on Friday in which Merkel was expected to echo many of the concerns about foreign policy raised by French President Macron.
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Merkel's Low-Key Visit With Trump Focuses On Trade, Foreign Policy

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Merkel's Low-Key Visit With Trump Focuses On Trade, Foreign Policy

Merkel's Low-Key Visit With Trump Focuses On Trade, Foreign Policy

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump is hailing the progress made between North and South Korea at their historic summit. And he notes that the relationship between the U.S. and North Korea has changed radically from the days of name-calling between him and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Those comments came at a joint press conference this afternoon at the White House with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe was there and joins us now. Hi, Ayesha.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Hi.

SHAPIRO: What more did President Trump have to say today about North Korea?

RASCOE: Well, President Trump says they've gotten to a point that no one expected and that there's the potential for something dramatic to happen and that would be great for the world. Trump did take ownership over the crafting of a peace deal. And he said he had a responsibility to give it a try. He said - he also said that he's narrowed down the possible sites for a meeting between him and Kim to two locations. There's still no date for that summit, though.

SHAPIRO: Now, as we said, this was a joint press conference with Angela Merkel. And one reason she came here to talk with President Trump was the Iran nuclear deal. Merkel wants the U.S. to stay in the deal. Did she make any progress on that?

RASCOE: It's not really clear. In a nod to some of President Trump's complaints about the deal, she called the agreement a building block. And she said it's certainly not perfect, and more would need to be done regarding Iran. But she did say that it will be up to President Trump whether to stay in the deal. President Trump didn't show his hand on that. He was asked whether - if the U.S. left the deal, would he consider military action against Iran to prevent them from getting nuclear weapons? He said he wouldn't talk about that. But he did say this.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They will not be doing nuclear weapons. That I can tell you, OK? They're not going to be doing nuclear weapons. You can bank on it.

SHAPIRO: Another point of friction between President Trump and Angela Merkel is trade. Did anything on that front come out of these talks?

RASCOE: Well, there's this May 1 deadline to decide whether the EU will remain exempt from U.S. import tariffs on steel and aluminum. Merkel came here wanting an extension or a permanent exemption for the EU. She said she had an exchange of views with President Trump on this issue. But once again, she said the decision would lie with him. A big theme of these meetings between these two leaders has been the idea that the U.S. has been taken advantage of over the years and that Germany has not been doing its part, whether it's about spending on defense or on trade. President Trump has said that it's a disgrace that the U.S. has such a big trade deficit with the EU and that he's working to fix that. President Trump noted that some of his actions may not be popular in Europe. Here's a little more of what he had to say on that.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

TRUMP: I believe that, you know, when I look at the numbers in Germany and some other countries, they may not like Donald Trump. But you have to understand that means I'm doing a good job because I'm representing the United States. Angela is representing Germany.

SHAPIRO: And, of course, Angela Merkel is the second European leader President Trump has met with this week. Emmanuel Macron, the French president, had a state dinner earlier in the week. How would you compare the dynamic between these two leaders?

RASCOE: It's not the same at all. Now, President Trump insisted that he has a great relationship with the German chancellor. But it definitely was not as warm and fuzzy as it was with Macron. Merkel did seem somewhat deferential to President Trump. She kind of said - acknowledged some of the areas where they disagree. She said, we're working on the trade deficit. She knows President Trump is not happy with that. And they're working on spending more on the military. So they were cordial with each other, but it wasn't as close as he was with Macron.

SHAPIRO: That's NPR's Ayesha Rascoe speaking with us from the White House. Thanks.

RASCOE: Thank you.

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