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Looking At U.S.-German Relations Ahead Of G-20 Summit


President Trump has a chance to make a second impression in Europe. On his first European foray as president in May, he ruffled feathers by accusing allies of not pulling their weight in NATO. Since then, he's announced he wants to pull out of the Paris climate accord. Germany's leader, Angela Merkel, has already said that talks with Trump will be, quote, "very difficult" when he arrives in Hamburg, Germany, tomorrow for the G-20 summit. So how difficult might the talks be? Well, let's bring in Germany's ambassador to the U.S., Peter Wittig. He's in the studio with us.

Good morning, Ambassador.

PETER WITTIG: Good morning.

KELLY: What are German expectations for this visit from President Trump?

WITTIG: Well, he comes for the G-20 meeting. This is an important forum, the only unique forum where the world leaders of the 20 biggest economies in the world come together, representing two-thirds of the world population. And they will focus on economic topics, like the state of the economic life in the world, will focus on trade, but also on the global challenges security-wise, like fight against terrorism and pandemics, migration, et cetera. What the chancellor, Merkel, who's presiding over that meeting, wants is to generate consensus among those 20 leaders not to open new fault lines. So she will be not calling out leaders or isolate leaders, but try to be a bridge builder in that important meeting.

KELLY: So that's the broad backdrop for this summit.

WITTIG: Right.

KELLY: I mentioned that there were some specific words that Europeans were hoping to hear from President Trump last time that he didn't say. Is there something specific you're - you will be listening for at this meeting?

WITTIG: Well, you know, among friends, you can have differences. And we do have some differences. One is on climate change. Evidently, we were not happy that this administration decided to leave Paris. And the other difference is on trade issues. And here, we hope that we can find common ground in declaring that we want to maintain and further develop our open and rule-based international order. And the chancellor will certainly get out of her way to be a bridge builder and to find common ground.

KELLY: That said, I wonder, are you listening specifically for him to sign on to common defense, Article 5 of the NATO treaty?

WITTIG: Well, you know, this is not a NATO summit.

KELLY: Sure.

WITTIG: You have China and Russia and Brazil...

KELLY: But it's an opportunity for him to say words that he didn't last time.

WITTIG: I don't think NATO will be a big topic. The security challenges of the world will. And I'm sure he will appeal, also, to the solidarity of the world to address those challenges. But NATO is not in the focus.

KELLY: You mentioned the hope that bridges will be built here, bridging differences. But Chancellor Merkel has had some very strong words herself. She said that the U.S. can no longer be counted on as a reliable ally to Germany - this following all of these developments we've been touching on over the last few months. Is the U.S. a reliable partner to Germany?

WITTIG: Look, we have had great relations over the last decades. You know, the development of Germany cannot be conceived and thought of without the U.S.

KELLY: But how about relations these last six months?

WITTIG: They are built on a very strong basis. And we have - we are good allies. We're good friends. And we have differences that we talk honestly about. And I named two - climate and trade. And those differences will be discussed in Hamburg, as well.

KELLY: That's German Ambassador Peter Wittig. Ambassador Wittig, thank you.

WITTIG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.