German Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks during a joint news conference with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven after their meeting at the government headquarters Rosenbad in Stockholm in Stockholm, Sweden January 31 ,2017 .TT News Agency/Henrik Montgomery via Reuters(reuters_tickers)
BERLIN (Reuters) - Emphasising the "historical friendship" between its people and Americans, Germany said on Wednesday it was still opening up channels of communication with aides to U.S. President Donald Trump, who has launched withering attacks on Berlin's policies.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was the go-to European ally for former U.S. president Barack Obama, who praised her as "an outstanding partner" on a farewell visit to Berlin in November. Under Trump, the relationship has deteriorated rapidly.
Last month, Trump said Merkel made a "catastrophic mistake" with her open-door migration policy. This week, his top trade adviser said Germany was using a "grossly undervalued" euro to gain advantage over the United States and its European partners.
"The German-American relationship is not just a relationship between governments," Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, told reporters when asked whether "daily attacks from Washington" meant relations had deteriorated.
"It is a deep, I would say historical, friendship between two peoples. It is a union between two democracies. So it is a lot more than two governments - and it is a trans-Atlantic relationship," he said.
Pressed on the attacks on Germany's migrant and trade policies, and the euro, Seibert added: "We are at the very beginning of the cooperation with a new American government."
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said Berlin was working on "establishing channels at the political level and then getting on with business as closely and with as much trust as possible".
Merkel's government has made an offer to Trump's team for her to visit the United States in the spring in her capacity as chairman of the G20 group of leading economies, government sources have said.
Trump has accepted an invitation to come to a G20 summit that Merkel will host in Hamburg in early July.
The pair spoke by telephone on Saturday about NATO, the situation in the Middle East and North Africa, their ties to Russia and the conflict in eastern Ukraine, according to a statement approved by both countries.
During the conversation, Trump said he looked forward to welcoming Merkel to Washington soon.
Seibert told Wednesday's news conference there were clearly differences between the two leaders.
"It was clear before this (telephone) conversation that there were differences between the new president and the chancellor, or the (German) government," he said. "And we will represent our beliefs to this American government."
(Reporting by Paul Carrel; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)