July 25, 2018 / 6:59 AM / a year ago

The U.S. is bigger than the White House, German foreign minister says

BERLIN (Reuters) - The United States is bigger than the White House, regardless of U.S. President Donald Trump’s tweets, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Twitter on Wednesday.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas attends the weekly cabinet in Berlin, Germany, July 18, 2018. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Shortly afterwards, Maas gave a speech in Tokyo proposing that Berlin and Tokyo lead an “alliance of the multilateralists” to counter go-it-alone tendencies emanating from the United States, China and Russia.

Trump once more rattled allies on a trip to Europe this month by labelling the European Union a “foe” with regard to trade.

“For me, the USA is not an opponent but rather our most important partner and ally outside the EU,” Maas tweeted. “America is bigger than the White House. Trump will not change that either. He can tweet as much as he wants.”

Germany has a huge stake in close economic, political and defence ties with Washington, and has struggled to formulate a response to Trump’s “America First” policy, which has seen him abandon decades of U.S. support for free trade, European integration and transatlantic military alliance.

But in his Tokyo speech, Maas made a first step towards doing so. He suggested that the two like-minded countries, which shared a history of wartime shame and defeat followed by impressive economic recovery fostered by liberal conquerors, were well-placed to mount a defence of multilateralism.

“(The disorder) is being reinforced by uncertainty over the U.S. course under Trump, who is throwing decades-old alliances into question in 280-character tweets,” he said, also listing Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine and China’s economic muscle as further destabilising factors.

“If we join forces, maybe we can become rule shapers - shapers and motors of the international order,” Maas said in the text of the speech. “Germany and Japan can become the core of an alliance of the multilateralists,” he said, suggesting that they could fill “gaps left by the “U.S. withdrawal from parts of the world stage”.

Maas’s tour of the region will take in South Korea, another democratic exporting powerhouse, but not China, whose attempts to convert economic muscle into political power are causing growing nervousness in Europe’s capitals.

Among the tasks the multilateralists could shoulder together, he listed leading the fight against climate change and taking responsibility for international organisations - “not just financially, but also politically”.

Writing by Thomas Escritt and Paul Carrel; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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