image courtesy : NBC News

President Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said they had productive meetings on Friday, even as they offered contrasting visions of the United States-European relationship on issues like trade, the European Union and the NATO defense compact.

Items on the agenda for Friday’s meeting included the fight against ISIL, strengthening the NATO alliance and resolving Ukraine’s conflict with Russia.

Trump told Merkel he supports a “strong NATO” but added that her country and other European nations must pay their “fair share” of the costs of the alliance.

“Many nations owe vast sums of money from past years and it is very unfair to the United States,” Trump said in a joint news conference with Merkel after their meetings. “These nations must pay what they owe.”

Merkel said Germany is increasing its NATO contributions, seeking to meet the organization’s goal of 2% of gross domestic product; she also said there are “different assets and facets” of contributing to defense security and stressed the importance of NATO missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

President Donald Trump today dismissed the notion that he was an “isolationist” in his policies, as he held talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and asserted that Germany and the US must work together towards fair and reciprocal trade policies.

Responding to a question, Trump refuted the impression that he is an isolationist.

“I dont believe in an isolationist policy. But I also believe a policy of trade should be a fair policy. The United States has been treated very, very unfairly by many countries over the years. Thats going to stop. But Im not an isolationist,” he said.

He says, “Immigration is a privilege, not a right, and the safety of our citizens must always come first, without question.”

Trump had repeatedly bashed Merkel during his presidential campaign last year, accusing her of “ruining” Germany for allowing an influx of refugees from Syria.

While Merkel insists that Germany will continue to take in people who genuinely need protection, her government has toughened asylum rules.

At the news conference, Merkel hinted at differences, saying: “This is obviously something we had an exchange of views about.”

During a question-and-answer session, Merkel said she and Trump sought to address “those areas where we disagreed” and “try to find a compromise which is good for both sides, because we need to be fair with each other.”

Merkel, meanwhile, has questioned Trump over his criticism of the EU, NATO, free-trade agreements and other multi-national agreements. Before leaving for the United States, Merkel said she would be representing Europe as well as Germany in her meeting with Trump.

At the news conference with Trump, Merkel said Germany believes in “European unity and European integration,” and “I am saying it in the United States, also here in Washington in my talks with the president.”

In addition to a bilateral meeting in the Oval Office, Trump and Merkel also hosted a roundtable with business leaders from both countries to discuss what the president called “workforce development and vocational training.”

The German chancellor said earlier this month that cooperation with the United States should be based on “values of democracy, freedom, respect for the rule of law and human dignity, regardless of origin, skin color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or political belief.”