Donald Trump,  Xi Jinping and  Angela Merkel John Macdougall/Getty Images

The Global Leadership Vacuum

Will Angela Merkel’s Germany ensure that great-power cooperation does not deteriorate beyond the point of no return in the Trump era? The answer to that question will likely determine if the international order has any order to speak of in the years ahead.

MADRID – Germany and China are chief among the countries whose economic policies have drawn US President Donald Trump’s ire. While the United States has the largest current-account deficit in the world, Germany and China are running the largest surpluses, and that irritates Trump and his advisers to no end.

Trump’s top trade adviser, Peter Navarro, insists that China is suppressing the value of its currency, the renminbi. More surprisingly, Navarro has also accused Germany, an American ally, of “exploiting” the US and its European partners through an undervalued euro. Most economists agree that Navarro’s accusations are largely unfounded. Trump himself has flip-flopped on these issues, contradicting Navarro on occasion, even as he remains openly suspicious of US trade partners’ policies generally.

Since Trump was elected last year, Germany and China have also been chief among the countries expected to supplant US global leadership. But Germany and China are profoundly different, and there is no consensus on whether either country can or will fill America’s shoes.

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