Biden to host Merkel at White House in push to improve ties

File photo. German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) receives the then US Vice President Joe Biden at the Federal Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, 1 February 2013. [EPA/EFE/MAURIZIO GAMBARINI]

US President Joe Biden will host a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel next Thursday (15 July) to affirm “deep and enduring” ties between the NATO allies while also tackling some areas of disagreement, the White House said on Friday.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the two leaders would discuss ransomware attacks that have hit companies in the United States and around the world, as well as the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, which Washington opposes, although it pragmatically decided not to burden the relations with Berlin.

US waives sanctions on Nord Stream 2 as Biden seeks to mend Europe ties

The Biden administration waived sanctions on the company behind Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday (19 May), a move decried by critics of the project in Congress.

Psaki said it would be an “official working visit” aimed at shoring up the partnership between the two countries and identifying ways to further strengthen cooperation.

It will be Merkel’s first visit to Washington since Biden took office in January. Merkel, now in her fourth term, has said she will step down after German national elections in September.

Psaki said Biden continued to view the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 pipeline as a “bad deal,” but declined to say if an agreement could be reached to stave off resumption of temporarily suspended US tariffs on Nord Stream 2 AG, the Germany company behind the pipeline, and its chief executive.

The US State Department in May concluded that the company and CEO Matthias Warnig, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, engaged in sanctionable activity. But Secretary of State Antony Blinken immediately waived those sanctions, saying it was in the US national interest.

Biden has said he wants to improve ties with Germany, an ally he needs to help deal with broader issues including climate change, the economic recovery and relations with Iran and China.

German officials say they hope to resolve the issue by August and the Biden-Merkel meeting could provide important momentum for getting to a deal.

Berlin and Washington also remain at odds over a temporary waiver of intellectual property rights being considered by World Trade Organization members to help end the COVID-19 pandemic. Washington backs the waiver, but Germany is opposed.

Asked if Biden would seek to convince Merkel to support the patent waiver, Psaki said the president was a “strong proponent” of such action, but it was just one of several tools that could be used to boost COVID-19 vaccination rates around the world.

Amnesty International, Public Citizen, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA and other groups urged Biden in a letter on Friday to pressure Merkel to support the waiver.

“The Merkel summit cannot be considered a success unless it includes an agreement for Germany to join your support for a waiver and to prioritize the fastest possible end of the pandemic,” they wrote in the letter, which was seen by Reuters.

Psaki said the two leaders will also discuss ransomware cyberattacks, after Biden pressured Putin to move against cybercriminals operating out of Russia.

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