President Donald Trump has met German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House for a key summit.
NATO, trade and Ukraine are on their agenda, but the focus will also be on how the two leaders interact.
President Trump has called Angela Merkel’s migration policy “catastrophic”, while she has criticized his planned travel ban on several mainly Muslim nations.
The visit was scheduled for March 14, but had to be postponed due to Winter Storm Stella that hit the East Coast last week.
Ahead of March 17 talks, Angela Merkel told German media she was looking forward to her first meeting with Donald Trump.
She told Saarbruecker Zeitung: “It’s always better to talk with each other than about each other.”
Donald Trump and Angela Merkel will hold more than two hours of talks, followed by a working lunch and joint press conference.
The summit has been highly anticipated given that the two leaders have publicly differed on several key issues.
Two months ago, President Trump said Angela Merkel had made “a catastrophic mistake” by allowing hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants into Germany.
And when Time magazine chose the Germanchancellor as its person of the year in 2015 instead of him, Donald Trump said she was “ruining Germany”. However, he has also said in the past she is a leader he greatly respects.
Donald Trump also has German ancestry. His grandfather emigrated to the United States in 1885 at the age of 16 from the town of Kallstadt, about 30 miles south-west of Frankfurt.
For her part, Angela Merkel has criticized President Trump’s controversial travel ban that targets the citizens of several mainly Muslim countries.
In her first phone conversation with President Trump after he took office, she explained that the Geneva Convention obliges signatories, including the US, to take in refugees of war on humanitarian grounds.
Angela Merkel also had a strong relationship with President Barack Obama. His final call to a foreign leader as president was said to be to Angela Merkel, thanking her for her leadership.
This first meeting comes as Angela Merkel prepares for an election battle later in the year, seeking a fourth term as chancellor.
Trade will be a key issue for the summit.
During his presidential campaign, Donald Trump threatened higher import taxes for countries such as Germany that have a trade surplus over America.
Angela Merkel is being accompanied by top executives from German companies Siemens, Schaeffler and BMW and will point out the large direct German investment in the US.
She said BMW’s plant in the US exported “more cars than GM and Ford together” from the United States, adding: “I’ll make that clear.”
On March 17, Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries said Germany could file a suit against any hike in import duties at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
She told Deutschlandfunk radio: “There are procedures laid out there because in the WTO agreements it is clearly laid out that you’re not allowed to take more than 2.5% taxes on imports of cars.”
President Trump has suggested a 35% levy.
“It wouldn’t be the first time that Mr. Trump has lost in the courts,” Brigitte Zypries added.
NATO is also on the two leaders’ agenda.
President Trump has insisted members pay their fair share. Only four nations currently reach the benchmark of spending 2% of GDP on defense. Germany is not among them.
The meeting agenda is also expected to cover foreign policy issues involving Russia, Syria, Iran, North Korea and the Middle East peace process.