Merkel’s “last visit to the United States”, what are the highlights

Since Biden took power, the relationship between Germany and the United States has changed significantly. The foreign ministers, defense ministers and economic ministers of the two countries have exchanged visits in recent months. The United States has frequently shown goodwill to Germany, voluntarily abandoning sanctions on the companies participating in the “Beixi-2” project, and promised to increase the number of US troops stationed in Germany without withdrawing them. Biden’s trip to Europe in June is intended to repair the alliance between Europe and the United States. During his trip to Germany in late June, Secretary of State Brinken made a high-profile statement that “the United States has no better partner and friend in the world than Germany.” Germany also reciprocated, trying to seize the opportunity of “the United States is back” to facilitate a “new deal” between Europe and the United States, and to draw closer its policy stance with the US government on many issues. On the 15th, German Chancellor Angela Merkel made his last official visit to the United States before leaving office, which does not rule out Germany and the United States reaching more compromises.

Since the beginning of the new century, the trend of German-American relations has increased, and the foundation of political mutual trust has become increasingly loose. It is true that Germany and the United States have common values ​​and common interests. As a beneficiary of the “Marshall Plan”, Germany is grateful for the help of the United States in its post-war reconstruction. But as early as 2002, the US National Security Agency began to monitor Merkel’s mobile phones, highlighting that the United States is not at ease with Germany. During the Trump administration, German-US relations declined sharply. The picture of Merkel battling Trump at the G7 Summit in 2018 has become a portrayal of bilateral relations at that time. The United States imposed sanctions on the companies participating in the “Beixi-2” project led by Germany, imposed punitive tariffs on German-European steel and aluminum products and Airbus subsidies disputes, criticized Germany for arrears with North China dating fees, and decided to withdraw some US troops in Germany, and even Accuses German cars of threatening the national security of the United States, etc. The political conflicts and confrontations between the two countries on trade frictions, energy policies, international organizations, the Iranian nuclear agreement, and 5G construction have gradually become public. From the perspective of public opinion, many Germans are also disappointed with American democracy and national image. A survey conducted by the Kolber Foundation in November last year showed that more than half of Germans want Germany and Europe to reduce their dependence on the United States, and 82% of Germans want to maintain neutrality between China and the United States.

Currently, Europe, the United States, Germany and the United States have consciously improved policy communication in areas such as trade disputes, digital governance, climate protection, Indo-Pacific security, and China strategies. However, it is in these areas that the two sides also have conflicts of interest and differences in ideas. Especially in terms of data protection, anti-monopoly control of American technology giants, investment dispute resolution mechanism, digital tax, carbon border adjustment tax and other issues, the concepts and interests are different. There are games in the fields of technical standards, industrial rules, and financial and currency. Although Biden deliberately repaired allied relations, policy coordination between Europe and the United States is far from being completely smooth. The United States often ignores Europe’s core interests at critical moments, such as the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan, the Iranian nuclear issue, and EU-Russian relations and other strategic security areas. Insufficiency, and even backlash. After the United States gave up sanctions on the “North Stream-2” project, in early June it threatened again to impose sanctions on Russia, which also highlighted the variables in the relationship between the United States and the United States.

In the direction of China, Biden actively wooed European allies to deal with China, and Europe and the United States have also strengthened their China policy coordination. However, Europe does not dare to have too many illusions about the return of the United States to the allies camp, and the tendency of American politics to be inward-looking is still continuing. The diplomatic actions of the Biden administration and Trump are also serving the middle-class voters in their own countries, but they only use “buy American goods”. Instead of the “America First” slogan, it also requires Europe to prove its ability to “share the burden” diplomatically. In the current era of rapid changes in the international landscape, Germany and Europe are cautious and unwilling to get too involved in geopolitical disputes. For the first time, they propose to reduce their external dependence on the United States and China at the same time and take the initiative to develop strategic autonomy. Whether it is the outgoing Merkel or the future German leader, they have reservations about the U.S. stance on China and always advocate both cooperation and competition. For Germany and Europe, only by adhering to strategic autonomy and firmly upholding multilateralism can they develop into a true “global player”.