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Merkel and Biden agree to closer cooperation in pandemic, defense and trade

Tuesday, January 26th 2021 - 08:27 UTC
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Merkel and Biden in 2015 during trilateral talks in Munich. Photo: AFP Merkel and Biden in 2015 during trilateral talks in Munich. Photo: AFP

REUTERS – German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke on Monday to US president Joe Biden to congratulate him and agreed on closer cooperation in tackling world challenges, particularly the pandemic, defense, and trade.

Transatlantic relations cooled sharply under former president Donald Trump, who attacked Germany repeatedly for its export strength and alleged relatively low defense spending within the NATO alliance.

After bruising meetings of the G7 group of wealthy nations and NATO with Trump in 2017, Merkel said Europe could no longer completely rely on its allies and the continent must become more independent.

In their first phone call after Biden took office last week, Angela Merkel congratulated him on his inauguration, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement.

“At the same time, she declared Germany's willingness to take on responsibility in dealing with international tasks together with its European and transatlantic partners,”

Merkel and Biden agreed that more international efforts were needed to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. “In this context, the Chancellor welcomed the return of the United States to the World Health Organization,” Seibert added.

In Washington the White House said U.S. and German leaders agreed on the “importance of global cooperation,” including on fighting climate change, containing the coronavirus pandemic and “pursuing a stable global economic recovery.”

The leaders also spoke about foreign policy issues, particularly those relating to Afghanistan and Iran, and they discussed trade and climate policy, Seibert said.

The White House added Biden told Merkel he intends to revitalize the transatlantic alliance, NATO, and agreed to work on common foreign policy priorities, including Afghanistan, Iran, China, Russia, Ukraine and the Western Balkans.

Merkel welcomed Biden's decision to return the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement and invited him to visit Germany as soon as the pandemic allowed, Seibert said.

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