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US: Trump, Merkel Meet Amid Awkward Exchanges Featured

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Strange photo-op, poor-taste joke mire meeting between German, American leaders

German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s public exchanges with President Donald Trump on Friday can be summarized in one word: awkward.

The polar opposites met in Washington for the first time since Trump assumed office in January, and the face-to-face was sure to be filled with its share of tense exchanges behind closed doors.

But if what transpired in front of the cameras is any indication, the meeting was replete with more than its fair share of awkwardness.

During a joint press conference, Trump was asked by a German reporter about his recent allegations that his predecessor spied on him during last year’s allegations.

The claim has been rejected by the leaders of the House and Senate intelligence committees, and earlier Friday a Republican lawmaker called on Trump to apologize.

Unfazed, Trump insisted he is in the right, joking that he and Merkel may share a bond of kinship.

"As far as wiretapping, I guess by this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps," he said to laughter as Merkel appeared aghast before regaining her composure.

Among other revelations, former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden exposed the agency's monitoring of Merkel's phone under former President Barack Obama - creating one of the worst rifts in German-American relations since the country was united after the Cold War.

Prior to going into their meeting, the ostensible allies appeared noticeably at odds during an Oval Office photo opportunity.

At one point Merkel can be heard saying: "Do you want to have a handshake?”

Trump's response was a blank stare into the cameras while he slightly shifted his head.

It is unclear if Trump simply did not hear the chancellor, or if he ignored the question.

During their press conference, Trump denied claims of isolationism and demanded fairness in U.S.'s trade deals with other countries.

“I am a fair trader ... but I am not an isolationist," Trump said.

During his campaign and after taking office, Trump said he would impose a 45 percent tax on imports from China, and that same on imports from Mexico.

The suggestion of the cases were criticized by Chinese, Mexican and Canadian officials in recent months.

Trump said Friday that trade should be “reciprocal."

The U.S. had a trade deficit of $68 billion with Germany in 2016 -- the second-largest deficit America has after China.

Germany, on the other hand, had a record-high trade surplus of $270 billion last year -- its highest since after World War II.

Trump also said he is a strong supporter of NATO, but stressed that member countries need to "pay their fair share for the cost of defense”.

The U.S. spends 3.6 percent of its GDP on NATO, while the organization's total spending per members' GDPs averages 2.4 percent.

Trump said immigration is "a privilege, not a right," and added that "the safety of our citizens must always come first."

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