Speaking alongside the US president in the oval office, Dr Merkel noted that she had met Mr Biden at the G7 and Nato summits in Europe last month, and thanked him for the invitation to visit the White House.
“I’d like to say here how much I value friendship with the United States of America. We are more than aware of the contribution of America to a free and democratic Germany, so I am very much looking forward to deepening our relations yet again.”
Mr Biden described the German leader as “a great friend, a personal friend, and a friend of the United States” as the two began a one-to-one meeting followed by an expanded bilateral meetings also attended by secretary of state Antony Blinken and national security adviser Jake Sullivan, among others.
Among the items on the agenda were security challenges including Afghanistan as Nato troops pull out of the country, climate change and the Nord Stream 2 project – the gas line linking Russia and Germany, which has prompted concern in Washington.
A senior administration official said he expected Mr Biden to raise “his longstanding concerns” with Dr Merkel about Russia’s “geopolitical project and about the importance of developing concrete mechanisms to ensure that energy is not used as a coercive tool against Ukraine” or other countries.
The two leaders were expected to release a “Washington Declaration” outlining their common vision on policy challenges and hold a press conference later on Thursday. The visit was overshadowed by severe floods in Germany, which have left dozens of people dead.
Dr Merkel began her engagements in Washington yesterday with a visit to the Naval Observatory where she met vice-president Kamala Harris for a working breakfast. A spokeswoman for Ms Harris said that the two women had a “candid and wide-ranging discussion about current and future geopolitical threats and challenges”, and agreed on the “urgent need to invest in democratic institutions anchored in the rule of law and grounded in the fundamental rights and dignity of all people”.
The Covid pandemic, and challenges around Covax, the WHO-backed programme that aims to deliver vaccines to countries with little access to them, was also discussed during the meeting.
The German leader then met with business leaders, before being presented with an honorary degree at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, where she answered questions delivered by students.
Mr Biden and his wife, Jill, were due to host Dr Merkel and her husband, Prof Joachim Sauer, for a banquet in the State Dining Room on Thursday night at the White House. Among those expected to attend were former secretaries of state Hillary Clinton and Colin Powell, and the top congressional Republicans Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy.
Dr Merkel is the fifth foreign leader and first European prime minister to visit the White House since Mr Biden’s inauguration. She has visited the White House 11 times, according to the State Department.