By Anne K Walters — As a businessman Donald Trump used his handshake to seal a deal, but if body language was any indication he may not have yet been ready to sign off on a close friendship with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Trump and Merkel sat awkwardly side by side in the Oval Office, allowing photographers to snap a few photos, but the president did not shake the chancellor’s hand even as she asked him whether they should do so for the cameras. The two shared a formal handshake when she arrived at the White House and again at the conclusion of their shared press conference. The body language comes as the leaders attempted to assess each other in person for the first time after months of antagonsing one another.
Trump has criticised Merkel for her handling of the refugee crisis — once describing it as a “catastrophe” and a “horrific mistake” — and blasted Germany on trade and currency. He had said however that he liked her, while admitting in an interview last year that he did not yet know the long-time German leader. The somewhat cool interaction stood in stark contrast to Trump’s actions just a day earlier with the Irish prime minister, Enda Kenny, whom he referred to as his “new friend.” In the 57 days of his presidency, Trump has vigorously shaken the hand of other visiting leaders, including Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, British Prime Minister Theresa May and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Merkel however is not known for an effusive style, and her more reserved demeanour has sometimes proved a stumbling block to US leaders, with former president George W Bush setting off questions after he attempted to give her a shoulder rub at an international summit. After years of working together, Merkel did developed a close relationship with former president Barack Obama, with the leaders even calling one another by their first names, in contrast to German convention. Trump meanwhile made light both of their stark policy differences and an ongoing controversy over his unproven assertion that Obama ordered his offices be wiretapped. — DPA