/Trump is not the cause of cooling EU-U.S. ties, says Merkel

Trump is not the cause of cooling EU-U.S. ties, says Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump speak during a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the NATO summit in Watford, northeast of London on December 4, 2019 | Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images

America’s focus on Europe ‘is declining’ — and ‘that will be the case under any president,’ German chancellor says.

The cooling relationship between the U.S. and Germany is not down to Donald Trump but has deeper roots, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

Asked whether her own lack of rapport with the U.S. president was the source of the rift, Merkel told the Financial Times: “I think it has structural causes.”

“There’s been a shift,” Merkel explained, and former U.S. President Barack Obama “already spoke about the Asian century, as seen from the U.S. perspective. This also means that Europe is no longer, so to say, at the center of world events … The United States’ focus on Europe is declining — that will be the case under any president.”

But in comments that are unlikely to bridge the divide with Washington, Merkel hinted again that Germany could allow Chinese tech giant Huawei into its 5G telecoms network.

Merkel acknowledged that Germany should tighten its security requirements for telecoms providers and ensure it relies on a diverse field of suppliers “so that we never make ourselves dependent on one firm,” but added: “I think it is wrong to simply exclude someone per se.”

The U.S. has signaled that Huawei’s involvement in the German network could have serious implications for future intelligence-sharing between Berlin and Washington, and Merkel has faced pressure from MPs from her own center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU), who want the chancellor to block Huawei over national security concerns.

When it comes to how Europe and the world should deal with Beijing, Merkel said she would “advise against regarding China as a threat simply because it is economically successful.”

She continued: “Do we in Germany and Europe want to dismantle all interconnected global supply chains … because of this economic competition? In my opinion, complete isolation from China cannot be the answer.”

More broadly, Merkel said “there is no doubt whatsoever” that Trump had a point that bodies like the World Trade Organization and the United Nations required reform, “but I do not call the world’s multilateral structure into question.”

And addressing Brexit, the German chancellor said the U.K.’s move to leave is a “wake-up call” for the EU, adding that the bloc must respond by becoming “attractive, innovative, creative, a good place for research and education … Competition can then be very productive.”

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