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German Chancellor Merkel Speaks With Trump

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: I'm Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Berlin. According to her spokesman, Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Trump talked for 45 minutes yesterday. The spokesman says the leaders discussed the importance of NATO and the need for each member state to pay its fair share, the turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa, relations with Russia and the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Merkel and Trump also said they will work to deepen ties between their countries. But recent polls here show most Germans are very suspicious of Trump and expect their country's relations with the U.S. will sour. Political and business leaders, unnerved by his pronouncements, have also lashed out. One is Matthias Wissmann, the head of the German Automobile Industry Association. He bristled at Trump's threats to slap a 35 percent import tariffs on German cars not made in the U.S.

MATTHIAS WISSMANN: (Speaking German).

NELSON: In a recent interview with German n-TV, Wissmann said the U.S. should remember it sells cars here, too. He warned that whoever starts with protectionist measures will end up, quote, "kicking the ball into his own goal."

Many here say they are glad Merkel challenged the president about his ban on all refugees and the restrictions on citizens from seven largely Muslim countries.

SIGMAR GABRIEL: (Speaking German).

NELSON: German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel at a news conference in Paris questioned how such orders could be imposed by a country that embraces Christian values like the U.S.

At the Kollwitz weekly market in central Berlin, people I spoke to expressed fear about what Trump might do next.

PETER ZEC: (Speaking German).

NELSON: Design consultant and author Peter Zec said he doesn't share in the, quote, "hysteria" about Trump. but he is concerned the president will pressure Merkel and other European leaders to end sanctions against Russia. He predicts lifting the sanctions might embolden Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, to seize more of Eastern Europe.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Berlin.

(SOUNDBITE OF DUSTIN O'HALLORAN'S "RUNNER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson
Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.