Merkel’s U.S. visit expected to tackle major issues over transatlantic ties

German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Berlin, (Asian independent) German Chancellor Angela Merkel is going to visit Washington on Thursday, expecting to tackle issues dominating the transatlantic ties.

The U.S. government has planned welcoming programs to show solidarity between allies, while the German public is urging Merkel to push for solutions concerning energy and trade.

Merkel will deliver a speech on Thursday before her official meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden, and she and her husband will be invited to dinner in the White House, according to the schedule released by Deutsche Presse Agentur.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the meeting will shore up the partnership between the two countries.

She said the “forward-looking visit” will focus on increasing cooperation in the coming months and years, hinting at topics on post-Merkel-era relations.

Merkel, in her fourth term, has made it clear several times that she will not seek another term in Germany’s federal election scheduled for September, Xinhua reported.

It is Merkel’s first visit to the United States after Biden took office and probably her last one as German chancellor, and some German media predicted that Biden might use an occasion during the visit to bid farewell.

The meeting comes weeks after Biden’s Europe tour aimed at restoring the transatlantic ties. Analysts said although Merkel may get a warm reception, not like her last visit in 2018, Germany has to realise that the U.S. government has shifted its focus to the Asia-Pacific region.

Topics between Merkel and Biden will include the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, economic prosperity and international security based on shared values, according to a press release from the U.S. embassy in Berlin.

However, none of the topics is drawing more attention than the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that links Russia to Germany via the Baltic seabed, bypassing Ukraine.

Washington has long accused the project of posing a geopolitical threat to Ukraine, which is denied by both Germany and Russia.

The U.S. government recently waived sanctions against German companies in the project, but the Russian ships and entities involved were not exempted.

Psaki said Biden continues to view the pipeline as a “bad deal,” and she declined to comment on whether an agreement could be reached after the upcoming meeting.

Before heading off to Washington, Merkel on Monday met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, reassuring him Germany and the European Union (EU) will persuade Russia not to route all of its gas pipelines around Ukraine in the future.

Merkel said she would discuss the issue with Biden but didn’t “know whether the papers will be finalized.”

Another pending issue is the 25-per cent steel and 10-per cent aluminum tariffs imposed three years ago by the U.S. administration of Donald Trump.

The EU in May temporarily suspended the counter-tariffs that targeted a series of U.S. products, including whiskey, motorbikes, jeans, in a goodwill gesture. However, the U.S. government is still hesitating to lift the tariffs.

Biden is facing pressure to keep the tariffs in place from steel industry groups and unions in some key states that helped him win the presidential election.

Washington and Brussels have established a working group to solve the issue by December through negotiation.

Siegfried Russwurm, president of Federation of German Industries, said European exporters are burdened with bureaucracy and high costs concerning the tariffs. Russwurm expected Merkel to dismantle trade barriers and make it easier for business travelers to travel to the United States again.