Capitol Report: Biden, Merkel meet as tensions persist on Russian pipeline, China, vaccine patents

United States

President Joe Biden and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met Thursday in the White House, but they weren’t expected to announce any breakthroughs on key issues, even as discussions sounded more cordial than during the Trump era.

The U.S. for years has expressed opposition to the Nord Stream 2 natural gas NGQ21, +0.08% pipeline currently being built between Germany and Russia, while Merkel hasn’t matched American tough talk toward China.

In addition, the German leader hasn’t supported waiving intellectual-property protections for COVID-19 vaccines, while the Biden administration decided to take that position in May, saying such waivers would help end the COVID pandemic.

“While I reiterated my concerns about Nord Stream 2, Chancellor Merkel and I are absolutely united in our conviction that Russia must not be allowed to use energy as a weapon to coerce or threaten its neighbors,” Biden said during a joint news conference with Merkel after they met in the Oval Office.

When asked about an ongoing American ban on travel by Europeans into the U.S. due to COVID-19, Biden said his administration was looking into how soon it can lift the ban and he expected progress on the issue “within the next several days.”

Biden has changed the U.S. tone toward Germany after former President Donald Trump’s criticism of the NATO ally on issues such as military spending and trade.

“Mending U.S.-Germany relations won’t be simple. The countries disagree on a lot, including China,” said Ian Bremmer, president of Eurasia Group, a research and consulting firm, in a tweet on Thursday.

Protesters calling for greater global COVID-19 vaccine access unfurl a banner featuring German Chancellor Angela Merkel in front of the White House on Tuesday.

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Merkel is the first European leader to visit Biden in person at the White House since he took office, but the first world leader to make such a visit was Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, as part of the Biden administration’s effort to counter Beijing.

Her trip is a farewell visit to Washington, as she’s set to leave office in September after 16 years as chancellor. The trip coincides with fatal flooding in Germany and neighboring nations following heavy storms.

“Madam Chancellor, I know that the partnership between Germany and United States will continue to grow stronger on the foundation that you’ve helped to build,” Biden told Merkel during the news conference.

U.S. stocks SPX, -0.33% DJIA, +0.15% closed mostly lower Thursday as investors weighed Capitol Hill testimony from Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, along with earnings reports and economic releases.