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Trump-Merkel air differences in frosty 1st meeting

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Washington, March 18, 2017: US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have acknowledged past differences here in a frosty first encounter with widely diverging views of the world, a media report said.

The face-to-face talks at the White House on Friday seemed to do little to narrow the breach exposed by Trump’s criticism of Merkel during the 2016 Presidential campaign, Efe news reported.

What may have been the most telling episode of the visit took place during a photo opportunity in the Oval Office.

In response to calls from the press, Merkel asked Trump if he wanted to shake hands for the cameras, but the President did not respond.

Trump, known for his enthusiastic greetings, did extend his hand to Merkel when she arrived at the White House.

“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,” Merkel said through a translator during a joint press conference with her host, who in the past accused her of “ruining” Germany by admitting large numbers of Middle Eastern refugees.

The President, meanwhile, praised the Chancellor for Germany’s efforts in Afghanistan and its contributions to the fight against the Islamic State.

At the same time, he again raised the complaint that many European members of NATO – which he has described as “obsolete” – were not pulling their weight within the Atlantic Alliance.

“Many nations owe vast sums of money from past years and it is very unfair to the US. These nations must pay what they owe,” he said, apparently referring to the failure of some member-states to comply with the NATO guideline calling for devoting at least two per cent of gross domestic product to the military.

Trump expressed appreciation for Merkel’s assurance that Germany is committed to increasing its military spending.

More differences were evident on the subject of immigration.

“Immigration is a privilege, not a right, and the safety of our citizens must always come first, without question,” Trump said in the wake of court rulings blocking his second attempt to temporarily ban refugees as well as travellers from six Muslim-majority nations.

The German leader, who has criticised Trump’s travel ban, said that efforts to make borders secure and integrate immigrants must include “looking at the refugees as well, giving them opportunities to shape their own lives.”

The West, she said, should “help countries who right now are not able to do so, sometimes because they have civil war.”

On economic matters, the Chancellor said she hoped Trump would consider re-opening discussions on the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a proposed pact between the US and the European Union.

One of Trump’s first actions as President was to formally withdraw the US from the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership and he made no secret of his dislike for multilateral deals.

Merkel said she was in agreement with Trump that “trade has to be fairer, has to be a win-win situation.”

“Globalisation ought to be shaped in an open-minded way, but also in a fair way,” she said.

“I am a trader, I am a fair trader, a trader that wants to see good for everybody worldwide, but I’m not an isolationist by any stretch of the imagination,” Trump said, clearly annoyed at a German reporter for posing a question to Merkel about the President’s “isolationism.”

Germany, one of the world’s biggest exporters, currently enjoys a trade surplus with the US.

“I would say that the negotiators for Germany have done a far better job than the US but hopefully we can even it out,” Trump said.

The press conference ended on an unusual note, as a German reporter asked Trump about the controversy created when the White House cited a media report claiming that a British intelligence agency spied on him during the 2016 campaign at the request of then-President Barack Obama.

“As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps,” Trump said, looking over at Merkel, who reacted with anger in 2013 when documents provided by Edward Snowden revealed that the US had monitored her communications.

“We said nothing,” the President said. “All we did was quote a certain very talented legal mind who was the one responsible for saying that on television. I didn’t make an opinion on it.”

“You shouldn’t be talking to me. You should be talking to Fox (News),” Trump said, though he did stand by his assertion that Obama spied on him.

IANS

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North Korea suspends nuclear, ballistic missile testing

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North Korean Kim Jong un

Seoul, April 21: North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Saturday announced the immediate suspension of nuclear and long-range missile tests.

“From April 21, North Korea will stop nuclear tests and launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles,” Efe quoted Kim as saying.

According to the report, North Korea will also close a nuclear test site in the country’s northern side in a bid to guarantee transparency in suspending nuclear tests.

Having established a nuclear deterrent, North Korea can now turn to overhauling its economy, Kim said.

Pyongyang’s decision comes ahead of Kim’s April 27 summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in in the demilitarized zone that divides the two countries.

The last bilateral talks between the leaders of North and South Korea took place 11 years ago.

US President Donald Trump, who accepted Kim’s proposal for a meeting after months that saw the two men trade insults and threats, praised the announcement from Pyongyang.

“North Korea has agreed to suspend all Nuclear Tests and close up a major test site. This is very good news for North Korea and the World — big progress! Look forward to our Summit,” Trump said in a tweet.

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DJ Avicii dead at 28

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Madrid, April 21: World-renowned Swedish DJ and electronic music producer Avicii was found dead in Muscat, Oman, his agent said on Friday. He was 28.

“It is with profound sorrow that we announce the loss of Tim Bergling, also known as Avicii,” Efe quoted Diana Baron as saying.

“The family is devastated and we ask everyone to please respect their need for privacy in this difficult time,” Baron said. “No further statements will be given.”

Bergling had struggled with health problems, some caused by excessive drinking and was hospitalized for 11 days in 2012 for treatment of acute pancreatitis.

In early 2016, he announced his temporary retirement from touring, citing a desire to “explore other interests.”

“To me it was something I had to do for my health,” Bergling told The Hollywood Reporter in 2016, adding that he had taken on board “too much negative energy” from the music scene.

Avicii achieved global fame in 2011 with the release of his smash hit “Levels,” which was followed by other chart sensations, such as “Wake Me Up” and “Hey Brother”.

He was known for his collaborations with other artists, including Coldplay, David Guetta, Lenny Kravitz, Robbie Williams and Rita Ora.

In 2014, he teamed up with Carlos Santana, Wyclef Jean and Alexandre Pires on the official FIFA World Cup anthem, “We Will Find a Way”.

IANS

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IMF expects India’s role to expand in Indo-Pacific region

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International Monetary Fund

United Nations, April 21: The International Monetary Fund expects India’s role in the Indo-Pacific region’s development to continue to expand because of its robust growth, but it has to carry out more trade reforms, Ken Kang, the deputy director in IMF’s Asia Pacific Department said on Friday.

“Given our robust growth forecast where we see India’s growth rising from 7.4 per cent in 2017-18 to 7.8 per cent in 2019, we do expect India’s role in the region to continue to expand,” he said at a news conference in Washington.

“That being said, India does have room to expand its export orientation and to reduce further trade and non-trade barriers,” he added.

“The statutory tariff rate in India is relatively high at about 15 per cent, and higher than those in the rest of the region,” he added. “So there is room to do more on trade reform.”

IANS

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