Chancellor Angela Merkel probably never anticipated that the greatest challenge to Germany’s G20 leadership would be the United States. Then again, few people expected Donald Trump to win the U.S. presidency.
Mr. Trump, who made a protectionist economic agenda part of his platform, has made no secret of how he feels about Germany’s trade surplus. His trade advisor, Peter Navarro, has gone so far as to accuse Berlin of using an undervalued euro to exploit the United States.
Given the escalating tensions between the two largest Western economies, all eyes were on Ms. Merkel and Mr. Trump as they met for the first time in Washington on Friday.
The chancellor, with executives such as Joe Kaeser of Siemens and Harald Krüger of BMW in tow, sought to demonstrate that German companies are job creators in the United States and trade is not a zero-sum game.
As Ms. Merkel was in Washington trying to convince Mr. Trump of the virtues of free trade, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was in Baden-Baden battling G20 finance ministers over a joint communique.