BERLIN, Germany — Forget about the Twitter tirades, the yawning differences in leadership style and the not-so-subtle jabs that started flying across the Atlantic even before President Trump’s inauguration in January.
When staid, practical-minded German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets with the stylistically brash and bold Mr. Trump for the first time on Friday, she’ll be looking to talk to the American president in the role he first became famous for: as a businessman.
And to bolster her case against a looming trade war and protectionist measures that would take a toll on Germany’s exporting prowess, she’s bringing some bigwigs of German industry along: Joe Kaeser and Harald Kreuger, the CEOs of Siemens and BMW, respectively.
While it’s not unheard of for Ms. Merkel to travel to Washington with heavy-hitting business titans in tow, analysts said the unpredictable signals and statements on trade coming from the Trump administration have lent this delegation a sense of urgency as it visits one of Germany’s most valuable trade partners and one with which Berlin annually runs up large trade surpluses.
“Everything we took for granted under previous U.S. presidents is in question here,” said Claudia Schmucker, a senior policy analyst at the German Council on Foreign Relations in Berlin.
“Trump has criticized the [World Trade Organization], and he’s talked about import duties on German carmakers and that is all so far away from everything we have heard from a U.S. president before.”