US no longer called a 'friend' by German Chancellor Merkel's campaign team

BERLIN, July 3 (Reuters) - In their campaign program for the German election, Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives have dropped the term "friend" in describing the relationship with the United States.

Four years ago, the joint program of her Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), referred to the United States as Germany's "most important friend" outside of Europe.

The 2013 program also described the "friendship" with Washington as a "cornerstone" of Germany's international relations and talked about strengthening transatlantic economic ties through the removal of trade barriers.

But the words "friend" and "friendship" are missing from the latest election program - entitled "For a Germany in which we live well and happily" - which Merkel and CSU leader Horst Seehofer presented on Monday ahead of a Sept. 24 election.

Instead, the United States is described as Germany's "most important partner" outside of Europe. CDU officials were not immediately available to comment on the change in wording.

The change in wording underscores how relations between Berlin and Washington have deteriorated since U.S. President Donald Trump entered the White House in January.

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U.S. President Donald Trump acknowledges members of his cabinet, including Chief of Staff Reince Priebus (from 4th R), Senior Advisor Steve Bannon, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Vice President Mike Pence, as they arrive to meet with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel (L) in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel wait for reporters to enter the room before their meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel watch as reporters enter the room before their meeting in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, U.S. March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump, speaks while Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, left, listens during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, March 17, 2017. Merkel, who is running for a fourth term in Germanys election in September, plans to explain her view of the mutual advantages of free trade during her talks with Trump on Friday, according to German officials. Photographers: Pat Benic/Pool via Bloomberg
US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel hold a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrive to speak at a joint news conference at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
US President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel hold a joint press conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on March 17, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / SAUL LOEB (Photo credit should read SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump and Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor, smile for photographs as she arrives to the West Wing of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, March 17, 2017. Trumps first meeting with Merkel will test the power dynamic between the Wests two pre-eminent leaders, one struggling for credibility on the world stage while the other fights for political survival at home. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
U.S. President Donald Trump welcomes German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
U.S. President Donald Trump escorts German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
U.S. President Donald Trump greets German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the White House in Washington, U.S., March 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jim Bourg
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During his campaign for the presidency, Trump said that Merkel was "ruining" Germany with migration policies he described as "insane."

He has repeatedly denounced Germany's trade surplus with the United States, accused Berlin and other European partners of owing "massive amounts of money" to NATO, and unsettled western partners with his decision last month to pull out of the Paris climate accord. .

A survey by the Pew Research Center last week showed that just 35 percent of Germans have a favorable view of the United States, down from 57 percent at the end of President Barack Obama's term.

Merkel is due to host Trump and other leaders at a G20 summit in Hamburg later this week.

In place of the 2013 passage about strengthening economic ties, the 2017 program refers to historical U.S. support for Germany after World War Two and in the run-up to German reunification.

The new CDU/CSU election program also repeats a line that Merkel used in a speech in Munich in late May after a difficult summit of G7 leaders, where Trump resisted pressure from six other nations to stay in the Paris agreement.

"The times in which we could fully rely on others are, to a certain extent, in the past. We Europeans must take our fate into our own hands more decisively than we have in the past," the program reads.

While affirming Germany's commitment to the NATO military alliance, the program says that the EU must be in a position to defend itself independently if it wants to survive in the long run.

It also adds a special section entitled "Germany and France as the Motor of Europe" which vows to "reinvigorate the friendship" between the two countries.

"We are ready, together with the new French government, to further develop the euro zone step by step, for example through the creation of its own monetary fund," it reads.

But it also rules out the mutualisation of debt in Europe and says that "solidarity" will only be possible if EU countries stick to the rules of the bloc's Growth and Stability Pact.

(Reporting by Noah Barkin, editing by Larry King)

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