BERLIN (Reuters) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Joe Biden agreed in a phone call on Monday that the COVID-19 pandemic and other global challenges can only be tackled through closer cooperation, a government spokesman in Berlin said on Monday.
Transatlantic relations cooled sharply under former President Donald Trump, who attacked Germany repeatedly for its export strength and its relatively low defence spending within the NATO alliance.
After bruising meetings of the G7 group of wealthy nations and NATO with Trump in 2017, Merkel said that Europe could no longer completely rely on its allies and that the continent must become more independent.
In their first phone call after Biden took office last week, Merkel congratulated him on his inauguration, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said in a statement.
“At the same time, she declared Germany’s willingness to take on responsibility in dealing with international tasks together with its European and transatlantic partners,” Seibert said.
Merkel and Biden agreed that more international efforts were needed to cope with the coronavirus pandemic. “In this context, the Chancellor welcomed the return of the United States to the World Health Organization,” Seibert added.
Both leaders also spoke about foreign policy issues, particularly those relating to Afghanistan and Iran, and they discussed trade and climate policy, the spokesman said.
Merkel welcomed Biden’s decision to return the United States to the Paris Climate Agreement and invited him to visit Germany as soon as the pandemic allowed, he added.
The United States is Germany’s most important export market outside the bloc of European Union member states, but trade ties have deteriorated due to Trump’s “America First” trade policies, such as increasing import tariffs.
Reporting by Michael Nienaber; Editing by Edward Taylor and Alex Richardson