Merkel NSA Anger Won’t Harm U.S. Ties, Joffe Says

Germany’s trade and investment ties with the U.S. won’t be damaged by German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s condemnation of American surveillance programs, said Josef Joffe, editor and publisher of Die Zeit newspaper.

“Merkel would be the last one to cut a very profitable relationship with the U.S., and vice versa,” Joffe said during an interview yesterday with Bloomberg News in New York.

The German leader denounced “spying among friends” last month after Der Spiegel magazine reported that the U.S. National Security Agency had bugged her private mobile phone, and said “trust must be re-established” between the allies.

“Will the relationship persist? Absolutely,” Joffe said. “If you listen to noises coming out of Germany, it goes like this -- this is horrible, this is a breach of trust, however it must not affect the overall relationship, such as the negotiations on trade and investment, trans-Atlantic partnership involving our corporations and so on.”

The durability of its relations with Germany reflects the strength of the U.S.’s economic and military influence as described by Joffe in a new book, “The Myth of America’s Decline” (Liveright, 352 pages, $26.95).

Germany was the fifth-largest U.S. trading partner during the first eight months of 2013, according to U.S. Census data. Through August, the last month for which information is available, the U.S. exported $31.5 billion of goods to Germany this year and had imports of $73.9 billion.

The benefits of the economic relationship run both ways, Joffe said.

Looking Cool

“It is very strong because who else is there for the U.S. in Europe?” he asked. “Right now, the Germans look so good because the others look so bad -- the French and the Brits. By default they look cool.”

Joffe said there’s no reason to subscribe to the notion that the U.S., with the world’s biggest economy and largest military, is losing global influence to the likes of China.

“If you look at the military assets the U.S. has, I’m puzzled why anybody should talk about decline,” he said. “If you have a navy that dwarfs the next 14, if you have a defense budget that is almost good for half the world military spending, you have usable power -- which is how you get there first with the most. Nobody even gets close in this ability to fight a war halfway around the world.”

The U.S. is getting younger, with immigration and high fertility, which will keep the country from “freezing up,” he said.

While China’s economy, the world’s second-largest, is growing more quickly, an aging population and state control will keep it from overtaking the U.S., Joffe wrote in his book. China’s gross domestic product rose 7.8 percent in the third quarter, compared with a 2.8 percent annualized rate in the U.S.

“By 2025, under current United Nations and Census Bureau projections, China would account for less than a fifth of the world’s population but almost a fourth of the world’s senior citizens,” Joffe wrote, citing Nicholas Eberstadt, a demographer at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington-based policy group.

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