Merkel Sends Team to U.S. to Discuss Nord Stream, Funke Says

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is sending a high-ranking negotiating team to Washington this week to discuss the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline project, Funke media group reported.

The delegation, led by the chancellor’s foreign policy adviser, Jan Hecker, and her chief economic adviser, Lars-Hendrik Roeller, will meet with U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Trade Representative Katherine Tai, according to the report.

The trip is emblematic of improving relations between the U.S. and Germany under President Joe Biden. The president last week backed off from sanctions against the the pipeline project, saying it’s nearly completed, and the move would hurt relations with Europe.

Earlier in May, the Biden administration had said the company behind the project, Nord Stream 2 AG, and its chief executive officer, Matthias Warnig, were engaged in sactionable activity but that it would waive the penalties for national security reasons.

The 1,230-kilometer (760-mile) pipeline that will bring Russian natural gas into Germany has been a major source of friction in trans-Atlantic relations for years, with the U.S. claiming the link could give the Kremlin new leverage over its allies in Europe.

Merkel has applauded Biden’s softer stance. Pipe laying work continues, a Gazprom PJSC executive said on an earnings conference call last week, but it’s too early to give a time frame on completion of the project.

The German delegation’s visit, just days before Biden’s first visit to Europe, also expects to address the tensions that remain in economic relations between the two countries, according to Funke. One lingering issue is the punitive tariffs imposed by former President Donald Trump on steel and aluminum imports from Europe, which are still in place.

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