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Illustration: Sarah Grillo / Axios

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will arrive in Washington tomorrow a diminished figure — limping into her fourth term after six months of torturous coalition talks and touching down in the afterglow of Emmanuel Macron’s state visit.

Flashback: Days after Trump’s election in November 2016, Barack Obama flew to Germany and hailed Merkel — then TIME’s reigning Person of the Year — as “my closest international partner these last eight years.” Headlines declared that she had, however reluctantly, become the "leader of the free world."

Flash forward: Since losing ground in September’s election, Merkel has been in something of a strategic retreat internationally. A recent Der Speigel cover story bemoaned “Germany’s Incredibly Shrinking Role on the World Stage.”

  • According to Erik Brattberg, director of the Carnegie Endowment’s Europe program, that retreat involved leaving some distance between her and a U.S. president who is toxic in Germany — though cold air was clearly flowing in both directions.
  • While she’ll never match Macron’s chummy relationship with Trump, she’ll have more freedom to engage with him now that she has formed a government.
  • With Macron having moved the ball as far as he could on the Iran deal, and an E.U. exemption from Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs expiring Tuesday, her chief focus is likely to be trade.

Peter Foster, the Telegraph’s Europe editor, says that if Merkel makes progress there, it will be a characteristic "triumph of substance over style." 

  • "After Macron, Merkel will inevitably look ponderous, dour even. But she has been around long enough to know that the Trumps and Macrons of this world have a habit of coming and going."
  • "Even as she enters the endgame of her political life, she will be quietly confident about whose legacy will endure. She will note that Macron may have upstaged her on the back-slapping stakes, but to scant effect — it looks certain that Trump will pull out of the Iran deal. Merkel still has the chance to pull off a substantive diplomatic achievement."

The bigger picture: With perhaps 3 years left as chancellor, and more than a dozen behind her, don't expect Merkel to take drastic steps to burnish her legacy.

“She sees her legacy as keeping Europe and the West together at a difficult time. That’s how she wants to go down in history.”
— Erik Brattberg

Go deeper: Putting Merkel's longevity in perspective.

Go deeper

Updated 5 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus deaths reach 4,000 per day as hospitals remain in crisis mode — America has tuned out the coronavirus at the peak of its destruction — 1 in 3 people in L.A. County believed to have been infected with coronavirus.
  2. Politics: Biden taps ex-FDA chief to lead Operation Warp Speed amid rollout of COVID plan— Widow of GOP congressman-elect who died of COVID-19 will run to fill his seat — Joe Biden will seek nearly $2 trillion in COVID relief spending.
  3. Vaccine: Battling Black mistrust of the vaccines"Pharmacy deserts" could become vaccine deserts — Instacart to give $25 to shoppers who get vaccine.
  4. Economy: Unemployment filings explode againFed chair: No interest rate hike coming any time soon —  Inflation rose more than expected in December.
  5. World: WHO team arrives in China to investigate pandemic origins.
Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
1 hour ago - Economy & Business

Trump blocks banks from limiting loans to gun and oil companies

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Big banks are no longer allowed to reject business loan applicants because of the industry in which they operate, according to a new rule finalized on Thursday by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Wall Street has curtailed its exposure to industries like guns, oil and private prisons, driven by both public and shareholder pressures. This new rule could reverse that trend.

Former FDA commissioner: "Reliable drug supply is absolutely critical"

Axios' Caitlin Owens and former FDA commissioner Mark McClellan. Photo courtesy of Axios Events

Having a reliable supply of pharmaceutical drugs throughout America will be "absolutely critical" to boosting affordability in health care during the Biden administration, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner Mark McClellan said at a virtual Axios Event on Friday.

The big picture: McClellan, who served under President George W. Bush, says drugs having limited supply and limited competition leads to elevated pricing. He considers drug supply to be a national security and public health issue.

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