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Tough times

June 18, 2010

In an interview with Deutsche Welle, the US ambassador to Germany explains why President Obama and Chancellor Merkel share the same domestic problems and which team has impressed him most at the World Cup.

Philip Murphy
US ambassador to Germany and soccer fan Philip MurphyImage: AP

Philip D. Murphy has been US ambassador to Germany since September 2009. From 2006 to 2009 he was the Finance Chair of the Democratic National Committee. Prior to that he worked for more than 20 years at Goldman Sachs. He headed its Frankfurt Office from 1993 to 1997 and served as president of Goldman Sachs Asia from 1997 to 1999. Ambassador Murphy is an avid soccer fan and owns a women's soccer team in his home state of New Jersey.

Deutsche Welle: Germany and France will press for an international financial transaction tax as a response to the financial crisis at the upcoming G20 meeting in Toronto. Will the US keep up its opposition and block those measures?

Ambassador Philip D. Murphy: It's hard to say we block anything given the magnitude of the financial reform which the Senate and the House are going to enact. It's overwhelming, it's historic, it's unlike anything we have done since the 1930's. To say we are blocking something is a word I wouldn't agree with.

We have a philosophical view on how to best to reform financial markets. Germany in fairness has their view. I don't know about France. I just hope that at the end of the day - we share so many objectives in this effort - that we find some harmony and some coordination.

Germany under Chancellor Merkel has arguably been President Obama's strongest partner in Europe. But for months now Germany's coalition government is struggling with internal turmoil and some observers predict that the coalition could break apart. Is Washington worried about the state of the German coalition and about losing its most important partner in Europe?

Germany is an extraordinarily close ally of ours and has been for over 60 years. We have survived from one coalition to the next. But let me just say specificly: Angela Merkel, the chancellor, is an extraordinary ally of the United States and has had an extraordinarily good relationship with President Obama.

Germany and the United States share a common challenge at the moment - even though the reasons are different. We all have a lot on our plate. It's tough being an incumbent these days. We need for all of us to clear the road, because there are so many challenges in the world that we and Germany need to deal with together. And that's my hope for Germany and the US.

You are a big soccer fan, what's your take on the first round of matches at the World Cup?

I am a crazy soccer fan. It's a great World Cup and it's wide open. South Africa, I hope, gets into the second round, that would be good for the cup and good for the world. But I don't think they will win it. They are not a favorite to win it as Brasil will be in four years.

It's winter in South Africa. It favors the great fit teams, the teams that emphasize team work, fitness and conditioning. I think Germany's win over Australia was extremely impressive. I was extremely happy with the US draw against England.

So who will win the World Cup?

I don't know. But I do know this. If Germany finishes first in its group and we finish first in our group, the way the brackets work, we'll play each other on July 11 and I look forward to that.

We have a good team. But Germany could be the best team in the world right now. There's no question that the number one team on a power rating after the first round is Germany.

Interview: Michael Knigge
Editor: Rob Mudge