Joint Press Conference with President Trump and German Chancellor Merkel
2:09 P.M. EDT
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much. Chancellor Merkel, it is a great honor to welcome you to the People’s House, the White House. Our two nations share much in common, including our desire for security, prosperity and peace.
We just concluded a productive meeting with the German and American companies to discuss workforce development and vocational training -- very important words. Germany has done an incredible job training the employees and future employees, and employing its manufacturing and industrial workforce. It’s crucial that we provide our American workers with a really great employment outlook, and that includes making sure that we harness the full potential of women in our economy.
My administration is in the process of rebuilding the American industrial base. A stronger America is in the interests, believe me, of the world as a whole. I reiterated to Chancellor Merkel my strong support for NATO, as well as the need for our NATO allies to pay their fair share for the cost of defense. Many nations owe vast sums of money from past years, and it is very unfair to the United States. These nations must pay what they owe.
During our meeting, I thanked Chancellor Merkel for the German government’s commitment to increase defense spending and work toward contributing at least 2 percent of GDP. I want to thank the Chancellor for her leadership in supporting NATO and its efforts in Afghanistan. This has come at significant cost, including the lives of over 50 German soldiers, whose sacrifice we greatly honor.
I also appreciate Chancellor Merkel’s leadership, along with the French President, to resolve the conflict in Ukraine, where we ideally seek a peaceful solution.
Most importantly, our two countries must continue to work together to protect our people from radical Islamic terrorism and to defeat ISIS. I applaud Chancellor Merkel for Germany’s contributions, both civilian and military, as a counter-ISIS coalition member.
We also recognize that immigration security is national security. We must protect our citizens from those who seek to spread terrorism, extremism and violence inside our borders. Immigration is a privilege, not a right, and the safety of our citizens must always come first, without question.
Over lunch, the Chancellor and I will talk about our economic partnership. We must work together towards fair and reciprocal trade policies that benefit both of our peoples.
Millions of hardworking U.S. 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 recognize the right of free people to manage their own destiny.
The close friendship between America and Germany is built on our shared value. We cherish individual rights, we uphold the rule of law, and we seek peace among nations. Our alliance is a symbol of strength and cooperation to the world. It is the foundation of a very, very hopeful future.
CHANCELLOR MERKEL: (As interpreted.) Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure and privilege to be here today in the White House, together with President Donald Trump, and have a first personal, one-on-one meeting and an exchange of views.
In the period leading up to this visit, I’ve always said it’s much, much better to talk to one another and not about one another, and I think our conversation proved this. We talked about the international situation. We talked about also apprenticeship programs when we met with CEOs and apprentices around a roundtable, as regards the shared interests that we have.
Let me look back into the past. We, the Germans, owe a lot to the United States of America, particularly as regards the economic rise of Germany. This was primarily due to the help through the Marshall Plan. We were also able to regain German unity after decades of the United States standing up for this, together with other allies, and standing by our side during the period of the Cold War. And we are very gratified to know that today we can live in peace and freedom as a unified country due to that.
I was gratified to know that the President had aligned how important he thinks NATO is. NATO is of prime importance for us, and it was not without very good reason that we said during our summit meeting in Wales that also Germany needs to increase expenditure. We committed to this 2-percent goal until 2024. Last year we increased our defense spending by 8 percent, and we’re going to work together again and again on this.
And we said that, obviously, defense and security has a lot of different assets and facets to it. One the one hand, it’s supporting missions in Africa, for example. It’s also promoting development assistance, but it’s also helping mission in Africa, for example, in trying to stand up for their own safety and security.
We continue to be in conversation. What was important for us today was that we were able to talk about Afghanistan, talk about, as the President quite rightly said, the continuing mission of Germany in Afghanistan. I am very glad that the United States are intending to continue to commit to the Afghan mission as well.
Together, we fight against Islamist terrorism. Germany is going to step up its work and is going to continue its work in Afghanistan and also in Syria. We’re going to monitor the situation there very closely. We’re going to work on political solutions in Syria, but also in Libya -- what we talked about.
I am very gratified to know that the American administration and also the President, personally, commits himself to the Minsk process. We need to come to a solution of this problem. There has to be a safe and secure solution for Ukraine, but the relationship with Russia has to be improved, as well, once the situation there on the ground is clarified.
Minsk is a good basis, but, unfortunately, we haven’t made yet the headway that we want to. But we are going to work together with our experts in the next few months to come on this issue.
I am also here in my capacity as G20 president. You know that we will be hosting the G20 visit -- the G20 Summit -- sorry -- this year, and I’m very pleased that the President has committed to attending this summit. 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. 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 our potential our two economies have. 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.
So, particularly in this period where we are transiting from traditional manufacturing to industry -- capacity-building skills are so important, incidentally, not only for young people, but also for those who maybe have lost their jobs and need to be reskilled in order to find a job again. And that is an issue I know is very important for you here in the United States, but it’s also important for us in Germany.
So I can say there are a number of issues where we will continue to cooperate very closely on the level of our experts, but also on our level. We had a very good first exchange of views, so I’m very much looking forward to the talks we will have over lunch.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much. We’ll do a couple of questions.
Q Mr. President, thank you. There are a lot of Americans who have anxiety now like they did eight years ago as the government debates what to do about healthcare. I'm wondering if you can tell people what your bottom lines are, what’s non-negotiable. You’ve talked in the past saying no one should be denied health insurance if they can't afford it. You’ve talked about no cuts to Medicaid and Medicare. Are those your bottom lines and would you veto legislation that violated those?
Q Chancellor Merkel, if I could ask you, President Trump has got a different style than most recent, past U.S. Presidents. I'm wondering what you think about that style, if you think it's good for the world, or if you’ve got reservations about it.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you, Mark. We just have a really wonderful group of people meeting later. We met with 12 pretty much “no’s” in Congress -- you saw that a little while ago -- and they went from all “no’s” to all “yeses” and we have a lot of “yeses” coming in. It's all coming together. We're going to have great healthcare. It's going to be passed, I believe, I think substantially, pretty quickly. It's coming together beautifully. You have conservative groups, you have other groups. Everybody wants certain things. In the end, we're going to have a great healthcare plan.
Now, I have to tell you that Obamacare is a disaster. It's failing. I was in Tennessee -- we had a tremendous crowd the other night, and they have -- half of the state is uncovered. The insurance companies have left, and the other half has one insurance company and that will probably be bailing out pretty soon also. They’ll have nobody. You have many states where they have one. You have a lot of places now where they’ll have none. Obamacare will fail. It will fold. It will close up very, very soon if something isn't done.
I've often said politically, the best thing I can do is absolutely nothing. Wait one year and then even the Democrats will come say, please, please, you got to help us. But it's not the right thing to do for the people. We have a great plan. We have a plan that’s getting more and more popular with the Republican base, with the conservative base, and with people, generally. The press has covered it very inaccurately. People are truly covered well, and I think it's going to be something that's going to be a model to be looked upon.
Q May I ask what’s non-negotiable for you, Mr. President?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I'll tell you after we're finished. (Laughter.)
CHANCELLOR MERKEL: (As interpreted.) Thank you very much. Well, I'm here as Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany. I represent German interests. I speak with the President of the United States, who stands up for, as is right, American interests. That is our task, respectively. And I must say that I was very gratified to know the very warm and gracious hospitality with which I have been received here.
We held a conversation where we were trying to address also those areas where we disagree, but to try to bring people together, try to show what is our vantage point, what is the American vantage point, and then try to find a compromise which is good for both sides. Because we need to be fair with each other. Each and every one is expecting for his or her leader that something good comes out of it for their own people.
For Germany, I can say, well, people are different. People have different abilities, have different traits of character, have different origins, have found their way into politics along different pathways. All that is diversity, which is good. Sometimes it's difficult to find compromises, but that's what we've been elected for. If everything just went like that and without problem, we wouldn't need politicians to do these jobs.
Q -- from the German Press Agency. Madam Chancellor, given the experience of the GDR, you are always saying that you are so confident that walls can fall also. How dangerous do you think this isolationist policy of the U.S. President is? What was the import of terrorists that he plans? And also, with the fact that he doesn’t think that the EU -- doesn’t deal with the EU in a very respectful way?
And then, Mr. President, America First -- don't you think that this is going to weaken also the European Union? And why are you so scared of diversity? In the news and in the media, you speak so awful of fake news and that things, also, cannot be proven. For example, the fact that you have been wiretapped by Mr. Obama.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Nice, friendly reporter. (Laughter.) First of all, I don't believe in an isolationist policy, but I also believe a policy of trade should be a fair policy. And the United States has been treated very, very unfairly by many countries over the years. And that's going to stop.
But I'm not an isolationist. I'm a free trader, but I'm also a fair trader. And 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 company -- country. We're a very strong, very strong country. We'll soon be at a level that we perhaps have never been before. Our military is going to be strengthened -- it's been depleted.
But I am a trader. I am a fair trader. I am a trader that wants to see good for everybody, worldwide. But I am not an isolationist by any stretch of the imagination. So I don't know what newspaper you're reading, but I guess that would be another example of, as you say, fake news.
CHANCELLOR MERKEL: (As interpreted.) Well, allow me, if I may, to project in the following terms. We haven't yet had time to talk at great length about economic issues, but I would say that the success of Germany in the economic area, but also on security and peace -- that the success of Germans have always been one where the German success is one side of the coin, and the other side of the coin has been European unity and European integration. That's something of which I'm deeply convinced. And I'm not only saying this back home, I'm saying this here. I'm saying it in the United States and also here in Washington in my talks with the President.
Secondly, I believe that globalization ought to be shaped in an open-minded way, but also in a very fair way. Freedom of movement within the European Union, for example, is a very important element of our economic progress, of peace; has been for many, many decades. The European countries for many, many centuries waged wars against each other. We have to protect our external borders because -- and there we have to work on the basis of mutual interests with our neighbors.
Migration, immigration, integration has to be worked on, obviously. Traffickers have to be stopped. But this has to be done while looking at the refugees as well, giving them opportunities to shape their own lives where they are; help countries who right now are not in an ability to do so -- sometimes because they have civil war. I think that’s the right way of going about it. And this is obviously what we have an exchange of views about, but my position is the one that I have just set out for you.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: I might add that we have many plants and factories coming back into the United States. Many jobs are coming back to Michigan, to Ohio, to Pennsylvania, to a lot of places where they were losing jobs. And we will have a different policy, but it’s going to be a great policy for not only the United States but a great policy worldwide, and I look very much forward to it.
Q Yes, Mr. President, (inaudible) healthcare -- what exactly does the (inaudible)?
And then, for Chancellor Merkel, what do you anticipate could be a concession you would be willing to give to the administration (inaudible)?
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, Kevin, I think we have a very unified Republican Party. After all, we have the presidency, we have the House, we have the Senate. And we’re getting along very well, I will tell you. And if you were at the meeting that I just attended where we took 12 “no’s” or semi-“no’s” -- no “yeses” -- and within a short period of time, everybody was very much on board, and a commitment to vote yes.
I think we have a very unified party. I think we're actually more unified than even the election. You see -- when they talk about me, I seem to be very popular, at least this week, within the party because we have our highest numbers -- the highest numbers that I’ve ever had in the party. So I think there’s a great unification.
Now, healthcare is a very, very difficult subject, it’s a very complex subject, and it’s a subject that goes both ways. You do something for one side and the other side doesn’t like it. But it’s really something that’s come together very well, and I think it’s going to be very, very popular -- extremely popular.
On trade with Germany, I think we’re going to do fantastically well. Right now, I would say that the negotiators for Germany have done a far better job than the negotiators for the United States. But hopefully we can even it out. We don’t want victory, we want fairness. All I want is fairness.
Germany has done very well in its trade deals with the United States, and I give them credit for it, but -- and I can speak to many other countries. I mean, you look at China, you look at virtually any country that we do business with. It’s not exactly what you call good for our workers.
You look at the horrible NAFTA transaction -- NAFTA has been a disaster for the United States. It’s been a disaster for companies, and in particular, it’s been a disaster for the workers. A lot of the companies just moved, but the workers are screwed. And it’s probably the reason I’m standing here, maybe number one -- that and maybe the military -- building up our military, which we will do, and we will be stronger than ever before -- and hopefully not have to use it. But we will be stronger, and perhaps far stronger than ever before. But it’s probably the reason I’m here, is when you talk about trade.
So I think that we are going to be a very different country. I think we’re going to be -- we’re going to have great values. But in terms of our military, it’s going to be much stronger. And our trade deals are going to be good, solid deals. Not deals that lead to closing plants and tremendous unemployment.
Okay? Thank you.
CHANCELLOR MERKEL: (As interpreted.) When we speak about trade agreements, and the European Union is negotiating those agreements for all of the member states of the European Union, but obviously there’s also input by the member states -- they bring to the table what’s important to them.
We have underlined as a German industry, German business community, and have made the experience that any kind of agreement that we have concluded -- for example, at the very latest with South Korea -- brought us more jobs, actually. People were very much concerned about losing jobs -- for example, the automotive industry -- but in the end, it turned out -- particularly as it regards South Korea -- in the end it turned out that both sides benefited.
And I think it’s only fair. That’s the purpose of concluding agreements -- that both sides win. And that is the sort of spirit, I think, in which we ought to be guided in negotiating any agreement between the United States of America and the EU. I hope that we can resume the agreement that we started. We have just now concluded our agreement with Canada, and I hope that we will come back to the table and talk about the agreement between EU and the U.S. again.
Q Madam Chancellor, a question addressed to you. Today we're talking about trade. The President, in the past, always said that he doesn’t like multinational trade agreements but he does bilateral trade agreements. Do you think from the EU’s point of view, T-TIP is a bilateral agreement with Washington on one side, the EU the other side? Now, is the problem that America, the President of the United States, and the Europeans have a basically different understanding of what the EU is all about? That’s my question addressed to you.
And Mr. President, my question addressed to you, if I may -- rejected White House claims, is that the alleged wiretapping on you, on the Trump Tower, on Trump organization, or on members of your campaign was -- that British intelligence was either responsible for it or involved in it? After these claims are rejected, what is your take on that? Are there other suspects, or do you think it was a mistake to blame British intelligence for this.
And by the way, my second question, are there, from time to time, tweets that you regret in hindsight --
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Very seldom.
Q Very seldom. So you never would have wished not to have --
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Very seldom. Probably wouldn’t be here right now -- but very seldom. We have a tremendous group of people that listen, and I can get around the media when the media doesn’t tell the truth, so I like that.
As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps. (Laughter.) And just to finish your question, we said nothing. All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn’t make an opinion on it. That was a statement made by a very talented lawyer on Fox. And so you shouldn’t be talking to me, you should be talking to Fox, okay?
Q Thank you.
CHANCELLOR MERKEL: (As interpreted.) Well, I believe that the President has clearly set out his philosophy as to what trade agreements have to bring about for the American side as well. I personally don’t think that Germany needs to negotiate and not the European Union. We’ve devolved our competences to the European Union, so the European Union, or rather the Commission negotiates on behalf of the member states, so that’s not going to prevent us from concluding agreements. Indeed, this would be then qualify as a bilateral agreement between the EU and the United States if we had it.
But the question is, will it be of benefit to both countries or not, and let me be very honest, very candid -- a free trade agreement with the United States of America has not always been all that popular in Germany either. There have been less demonstrations against this free trade agreements in the United States that in Europe, and also in Germany. So I am very glad to note that apparently the perspective on that has changed a little bit at least in Germany, too.
PRESIDENT TRUMP: Thank you very much. Great honor. Thank you. Thank you.
2:36 P.M. EDT