WASHINGTON – President Trump and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany made no attempt on Friday to hide their disagreements about the future of the Iranian nuclear deal and trade relations between the United States and Europe after a day of meetings of the White House that they seemed to have produced no breakthroughs in major disputes.
Mr. Trump and Mrs. Merkel, who have had a cold relationship from the beginning, avoided the kind of uncomfortable confrontations that have characterized the past meetings, doing everything possible to congratulate each other and accentuate the areas of agreement. But Mr. Trump expressed his complaint that the commercial relationship between the United States and Europe was "unfair" and Mrs. Merkel made it clear that the president had not made the commitment he was seeking, permanently exempting the European Union from steel. and aluminum tariffs imposed in March.
"We need a reciprocal relationship, which we do not have," Mr. Trump said, next to Ms. Merkel at a press conference in the ornate East Room of the White House. "The Chancellor and I have discussed it extensively today, and we are working on it, and we want to make it more just and the chancellor wants to make it more just."
Mrs. Merkel, alternating between a serious and perplexed expression while speaking Mr. Trump, said he had not given her an advance of what she could decide on tariffs.
"We had an exchange of views on the current status of the negotiations, and the respective assessments of where we are in this," said Ms. Merkel dryly. "And the decision falls on the president."
He said practically the same thing about the nuclear agreement with Iran, which he described as imperfect but as "a piece of the mosaic" of dealing with Iran on which Britain, France, Germany and the United States could be built.
"Now we'll see what kind of decisions American partners make," Merkel said.
Mr. Trump gave no indication of whether he planned to fulfill his threat to break the deal before the deadline of May 12 by answering a journalist's question about whether he would use military force to control Iran's nuclear ambitions with a vague warning.
"They are not going to be making nuclear weapons," Trump said. "You can trust that."
Mrs. The discreet arrival of Merkel at the entrance of the White House on Friday during a few hours of meetings behind closed doors contrasted with the elaborate state visit to which Mr. Trump treated President Emmanuel Macron of France this week, with a greeting from 21 cannons Splendid formal dinner and opera performance at the White House. Like his German counterpart, Mr. Macron also pressured Mr. Trump to to stay in Iran's nuclear deal, but their relationship seemed to eclipse almost all of their disputes.
That was not the case with Mrs. Merkel and Mr. Trump, who were politely received on Friday but seemed to find little ground in common.
"This time there was a bit of honey to accompany the vinegar, more than we have seen in their other discussions" But the vinegar was also there, "said Jeffrey Rathke, principal investigator and deputy director of the Center's program for Europe Strategic and International Studies in Washington "They seemed to have agreed to get along, but without real progress on the main issues."
Mr. Trump congratulated Merkel on his recent electoral victory and praised his leadership in helping North Korea to negotiate on the dismantling of its nuclear program, but also lashed out against what it called an unfair trade disparity between the United States and Germany – with particular reference to a trade deficit of $ 50 billion in auto parts – and He stopped once again in his frequent complaint that Germany does not contribute enough financially to NATO.
"Other countries should pay r more, and I did not just say to Germany, "said Trump. "NATO is wonderful, but it helps Europe more than it helps us, and why do we pay the vast majority of costs?"
The president imprecisely referred to the goal the alliance has established that each member spend at least 2 percent of his gross domestic product on his own defense each year. Germany is one of the countries that does not meet this objective.
Mrs. Merkel sometimes backed down, deliberately referring to the fact that German car companies also make cars in the United States that are exported to other places, creating American jobs.
"Sometimes we can see the problems in a different way, but generally on the basis of friendship, in society," said Mrs. Merkel.
Despite his disagreements, Mr. Trump greeted Mrs. Merkel politely, tweeting in the hours leading up to her meeting, waiting for her visit and kissing her two cheeks when she got out of her limousine at the entrance to the west wing.
"We have a really good relationship," Trump told reporters moments later in the Oval Office, sitting next to Ms. Merkel for a few moments in front of the news cameras before they met in private. "We've really had a great relationship, from the beginning, but some people did not understand it."
They shook hands twice, avoiding the uncomfortable picture that developed last year when Mrs. Merkel sat in the office during her first visit to the White House from Trump's time, when she tended His hand and the president did not cling to her and the two seemed openly at odds in a tense press conference.
"It was better than last year," Christoph von Marschall, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund in the United States, said of Friday's visit. "Merkel is never the person with whom you can have a bromance, a touch-sensitive relationship, but body language was friendlier."
Dr. von Marschall said Mr. Macron's approach of "trying to be Trump's best friend in Europe" and Merkel's to keep a careful distance may have marked a strong contrast, but it does not seem to have produced different results.
Mr. Trump "keeps the pressure on its partners by not saying which side is leaning," he said. "There were two different strategies, but the same result."