Economy, security crises in focus as Obama arrives in Germany

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 23, 2016 7:06 PM

By Roberta Rampton

HANOVER, Germany (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama arrived in Germany on Sunday to hold talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, one of his closest allies in dealing with a shaky global economy and security crises in the Middle East and Ukraine.

It will be the last stop on a six-day foreign journey where Obama has sought to shore up U.S. alliances he views as key to increase trade, defeat Islamic State militants and offset Russian intervention in Ukraine and Syria.

Obama, who is in the last nine months of his presidential term, spent three days in London where he urged Britons to remain in the European Union in a June referendum, a vote that could have global economic consequences.

Earlier in the week, he met with Gulf leaders in Riyadh to try to allay fears that Washington had become less committed to their security, especially after the nuclear deal with the Saudis' regional rival Iran.

In Hanover, he will tour and speak at a massive industrial trade fair with Merkel. The leaders want to breathe life into a U.S.-European free trade accord still under negotiation which supporters say could boost each economy by some $100 billion.

Their push comes at a time when many Europeans and Americans alike fear the deal could cost jobs and affect standards.

“But time is not on anyone’s side at the moment,” said Heather Conley, a former State Department official in the George W. Bush administration, now with the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington.

Leaders are trying to wrap up complex talks on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the formal name of the accord, before Obama, a Democrat, leaves office on Jan. 20.

Getting a sign-off from the Republican-controlled U.S. Congress in the heat of an election campaign will be difficult. Obama has yet to secure approval for the sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, which is at a much more advanced stage.

"Getting trade deals done is tough, because each country has its own parochial interests and factions. And in order to get a trade deal done, each country has to give something up," Obama said at a London event on Saturday.

In Hanover, thousands of protesters holding placards with slogans like "Stop TTIP" marched on Saturday to express their opposition to the deal.

Before Obama returns to Washington late on Monday, he and Merkel will get together with British Prime Minister David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi to talk about beefing up intelligence sharing after Islamist militant attacks in France and Belgium.

The leaders are also expected to discuss how best to find a political settlement to Syria's civil war. Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the country for Europe, contributing to the continent's worst refugee crisis since World War Two.

(Additional reporting by Joseph Nasr in Berlin; Editing by Mark Heinrich)