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With Merkel, Trump Says He's 'Not an Isolationist by Any Stretch of the Imagination'

President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel participate in a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House on March 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — President Trump told German media he’s “not an isolationist” at a White House press conference Friday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who told reporters “globalization ought to be shaped in an open-minded way, but also in a very fair way.”

“In the period leading up to this visit, I’ve always said it’s much, much better to talk to one another and not about one another and I think our conversation proved this,” Merkel said about their bilateral closed-door talks, which included discussions about immigration and terrorism.

“I was gratified to know that the president underlined how important he thinks NATO is,” she said. “…I am very glad that the United States are intending to continue to commit to the Afghan mission as well. Together we fight against Islamist terrorism.”

Asked about their different styles, Merkel said the two “held a conversation while we were trying to address also those areas where we disagreed, but to try to bring people together, try to show what is our vantage point, what is the American vantage point, and then try to find a compromise which is good for both sides, because we need to be fair with each other.”

“…For Germany, I can say, well, people are different. People have different abilities, have different characteristic — traits of character, have different origins, have found their way into politics along different pathways, which — well, that is diversity, which is good.”

A German reporter asked Trump if his “America first” policy “is going to weaken also the European Union.”

“And why are you so scared of diversity in the news and in the media, that you speak so often of ‘fake news ‘ and that things after all, in the end, cannot be proven. For example, the fact that you have been wiretapped by Mr. Obama,” the Deutsche Presse-Agentur reporter added.

“A nice, friendly reporter,” Trump quipped. “Well, first of all, I don’t believe in an isolationist policy. But I also believe a policy of trade should be a fair policy. And the United States has been treated very, very unfairly by many countries over the years. And that’s going to stop. But I’m not an isolationist.”

“I’m a free trader, but I’m also a fair trader. And our free trade has led to a lot of bad things happening. You look at the deficits that we have, and you look at all of the accumulation of debt. We’re a very powerful company — country. We’re a very strong — very strong country,” he added.

“We’ll soon be at a level that we perhaps have never been before. Our military is going to be strengthened. It’s been depleted. But I am a — a trader. I am a fair trader. I am a trader that wants to see good for everybody worldwide, but I am not an isolationist by any stretch of the imagination. So I don’t know what newspaper you are reading, but I guess that would be another example of, as you say, fake news.”

Merkel said German success “is one side of the coin and the other side of the coin has been European unity and European integration.”

“That’s something, of which, I am deeply convinced and I am not only saying this back home, I am saying this here, I am saying it in the United States, also here in Washington in my talks with the president,” she said.

Merkel noted “we have to protect our external borders because — and there we have to work on the basis of mutual interest with our neighbors, migration, immigration, integration, has to be worked on obviously, traffickers have to be stopped.”

“But this has to be done by looking at the refugees as well, giving them opportunities to shape their own lives and where they are. Help countries who right now are at an inability to do so, sometimes because they have civil war,” she said. “I think that’s the right way of going about it. And this is obviously, where we have an exchange of views about it, but my position is the one I’ve just set out for you.”

Toward the end of the news conference, Trump made a reference to the Edward Snowden revelations that Merkel had been among world leaders monitored by the National Security Agency.

“As far as wiretapping, I guess by this past administration, at least we have something in common, perhaps,” the president said.