Trump did not refuse to shake Merkel's hand

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is shown attending the weekly cabinet meeting of the German government at the chancellery in Berlin Wednesday

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is shown attending the weekly cabinet meeting of the German government at the chancellery in Berlin Wednesday

German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks as she and US President Donald Trump hold a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, March 17, 2017.

The leaders, who could not be more different in demeanour, first met with business leaders from the USA and Germany to discuss modelling a U.S. vocational training programme on Germany's apprenticeship scheme as an alternative to university education.

Several issues divided Mr Trump and Chancellor Angela Merkel at their first meeting in the White House on March 17th.

"Many nations owe vast sums of money from past years, and it is very unfair to the United States", Trump continued.

Donald Trump claimed not to be an "isolationist" during an at-times awkward press conference for Angela Merkel's first visit to the U.S. since he took office.

The two leaders posed for photographers in the Oval Office before a one-on-one meeting.

"She wants to make the point that the companies have created thousands of jobs in the United States", Tanit Koch, the editor of the German newspaper Bild, tells NPR's Rachel Martin.

The new president reaffirmed the United States' "strong support" for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, but reiterated his stance that North Atlantic Treaty Organisation allies need to "pay their fair share" for the cost of defense.

Though he said many countries owe "vast sums of money", Trump declined to identify Germany as one of them. In his statement at the start, Trump praised Germany's apprenticeship program that trains people to join the industrial workforce. In a frequently awkward joint press conference in the East Room, Trump and Merkel showed little common ground as they addressed a host of thorny issues including North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, defense spending and free trade deals. Germany now spends 1.23% of its GDP on defence but this is being increased. Spicer, speaking with reporters following Trump's news conference, said: "I don't think we regret anything".

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The two leaders discussed North Atlantic Treaty Organisation funding, trade agreements and the global situations in Ukraine and Syria.

The most awkward moments involved Mr Trump's repeated claims that he was spied on as a candidate by the Obama administration.

During the press questions, a reporter from German paper Die Welt asked Ms Merkel if she thought that a trade agreement between the European Union and the USA would be multilateral or bilateral.

Trump had earlier welcomed Merkel with a handshake.

The US President also took the opportunity to reject an unfounded report from a Fox News commentator asserting that British intelligence agents were involved in the alleged spying, even though White House officials had assured livid British leaders that they would no longer promote the claim. But the top lawmakers on both committees have said they have seen no indications that Trump Tower was wiretapped. "That's something of which I'm deeply convinced".

The two leaders tried to express their common bonds but showed minimal rapport in their first encounter, a departure from Merkel's warm relations with Obama during his eight years as president.

After the conference, Fox's Shepard Smith responded: "Fox News can not confirm Judge Napolitano's commentary", apparently referring to the report Trump cited.

In 2013 the German government said it had information that the United States may have monitored Ms Merkel's mobile phone, prompting her to call Obama to demand immediate clarification. "That is our task respectively".

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