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Merkel got back-rubs from Bush, but she gets only a cold shoulder from Obama

Chancellor Merkel is "agonising over a series of slights (perceived or real) from Obama," opines Reuters' chief correspondent Noah Barkin (HT: David)

First came the message from Washington that Obama might not continue the regular video conferences Merkel held with Bush. In the end the White House came around, but it took two months to set one up.

Berlin also got the cold shoulder when Merkel tried to arrange a trip to Washington ahead of a G20 meeting in London at the start of April. Messages from Berlin with proposed dates went unanswered for days until Merkel’s team abandoned the idea completely, an official close to her told me.

This week came the latest signal, at least from Berlin’s perspective, that the Obama team is not taking German concerns seriously. The rescue of Opel, the German unit of U.S. car maker General Motors, has become the central theme of a slow-to-get-started German election campaign that pits Merkel against her Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. A misstep on Opel and Merkel’s bid for a second term could be doomed. But when she called an “Opel summit” for Wednesday to try to save the car maker, her ministers were shocked to see only low-level representation from the U.S. Treasury — a crucial player in the discussions.

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Don S on :

"This week came the latest signal, at least from Berlin’s perspective, that the Obama team is not taking German concerns seriously." Does Germany take US concerns seriso8usly? Well, yes. It just can't be bothered to actually do anything about US concerns. But Washington can't return the favor without hurt feelings, it would seem. No?

Don S on :

May I point out that one time they seem to have met Angela showed up carrying a list of non-negociable demands (together with Franchie Sarkozy). But no non-negociable concessions unfortunately. That is the general shape of US-German relations in recent years - concessions demanded from the US, but no concessions of much moment from Germany. Germany want's it's rightful voice, but generally declines to actually contribute (much) to the common effort. It got old very quickly under Bush and is aging even quicker with Obama. May I suggest a change of policy, perchance? Back to negociation in liue of the demands?

Zyme on :

Maybe this is simply a consequence of shifting priorities. While the US continues to focus more and more on Asia, likewise Germany focuses towards Eastern Europe. While US-German trade is down from 126.5 to 117.5 billion Euros from 2006 to 2008, German foreign trade with Russia has increased to 58 billion, which make almost 90 billion coupled with its immediate neighbours. Once other things become more important, mutual patience may also decrease.

Zyme on :

Oops the last numbers I got about german-russian trade are 68, and not 58 billion ;)

Don S on :

It already has, Zyme. One thing Germans always seem to leave out of their calculation is the value of US participation in NATO & defending Germany from your new boyfriend, a 'chap' with a history of abusing his iamoritas. Russia, I mean. I've been repeatedly told that NATO is 'old news' and the US contribution is of 'no value'. What you don';t value you don't end up keeping, in the long run....

David on :

The chancellor backed a deal which transferred control of Opel to Vladimir Putin (who has been nicer to her). This may preserve jobs (and excess manufacturing capacity) in Germany for a few years, but in the medium term the production will shift to Russia, and Berlin will have little to show for the billion euros it is spending to keep the company afloat.

Pat Patterson on :

Just curious, but how much would all the equipment and tooling be worth without even having to make one car?

Zyme on :

I think this is one of the few things I do not want to find out..

Pat Patterson on :

Are we both considering the possibility that the Russians and those evil Canadians have basically bought up a bankrupt company for its tangible assets and not its good will? Especially as Magna only needs to make parts not cars and I'm also sure that the Russians would love to upgrade its equipment considering most of what is state of the art there is 30-year old FIAT/Lada worn out leftovers.

Zyme on :

I believe it is impossible to predict how Opel will fare "on its own" now. After having been part of the GM conglomerate for 80 years, we will have to wait in this regard. But what I am convinced of is that the German taxpayer has been ripped off, should the state guarantees become due. The new owners surely were clever enough to keep the general elections in autumn in mind, and have as surely made advantage of this weakness of the governing parties.

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