According to Thomas Wiegold of the Eyes Forward website, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert denied on Monday a weekend report by The Times of London that President Donald Trump supposedly presented an invoice to German Chancellor Angela Merkel for America’s contributions to the country’s defense. The White House denied the report on Sunday. The report was widely repeated by other media.
Speaking in Beriln, Seibert did not provide any reasons for the report by The Times.
On Sunday, The Times reported:
“Donald Trump handed the German chancellor Angela Merkel a bill — thought to be for more than £300bn — for money her country “owed” Nato for defending it when they met last weekend, German government sources have revealed.
“The bill — handed over during private talks in Washington — was described as “outrageous” by one German minister.
“‘The concept behind putting out such demands is to intimidate the other side, but the chancellor took it calmly and will not respond to such provocations,” the minister said.
“Trump has criticised a number of Nato countries — Germany among them — for insufficient military spending, leaving America to pick up more than its fair share of the tab. He wants them to honour a commitment made in 2014 to invest 2% of their GDP in defence — a target met at present only by the US, Britain, Estonia, Greece and Poland.”
Here follows a transcript of the March 17 joint press conference:
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: 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 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 interest, 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 two 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. Me must work together towards fair and reciprocal trade policies that benefit both of our peoples. Millions of hard-working 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 values. 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 ANGELA MERKEL (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): 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 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 to 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 leave in peace and freedom as a unified country due to that.
So I was gratified to know that the president underlined 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 its expense -- expenditure.
We committed to this 2 percent goal until 2024 we -- last year we increased our defense spending by 8 percent, and we're going to work again and again on this. And we said that, obviously, defense and security has a lot of different assets and facets to it.
On the one hand, it's supporting missions, in Africa for example. It's also promoting development assistance, but it's also helping missions in Africa, for example, in trying to stand up for their own safety and security.
We continue to be in conversation, but what's important for us today was that we were able to talk about Afghanistan, and talk about what -- 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 commit themselves 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 address -- to attending this summit.
We're going to talk at some length over lunch about the issues. We say this has -- 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 of 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 for that 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 re-skilled 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 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.