While meeting with European leaders in Brussels on Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump said “the Germans are bad, very bad” in a way to criticise the German trade surplus, according to the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel.
Trump’s meeting with President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and President of the European Council Donald Tusk on Thursday morning was followed by a larger, closed-door meeting with European leaders.
“Look at the millions of cars that they are selling in the USA. Horrible. We will stop that,” Trump said at the meeting, according to Der Spiegel.
The report says as a reduction of the U.S. trade deficit is a priority of Trump, the U.S. president has blamed German trade surplus as a contributing factor and has pledged to “stop” German car sales to the U.S.
It says that is also in light of the “massive amounts of money” Trump feels Germany owes to NATO.
In January, Trump threatened to impose a 35 percent tax on German auto imports, saying “I would tell BMW that if you are building a factory in Mexico and plan to sell cars in the USA, without a 35 percent tax, then you can forget that.”
However, Trump’s criticism against Germany was rejected by Juncker, who sided with Germany. According to participants of the meeting, Juncker defended the concept of free trade in a friendly but firm manner.
German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung reports that the EU representatives were shocked by the U.S. president’s and his consultant’s “lack of knowledge” concerning the European Union (EU) trade policy.
The American delegation was reportedly unaware that member states of the EU can only jointly enter into trade contracts, not on a country-to-country basis.
Trump’s economic advisor Gary Cohn reportedly stated that the customs tariff between the U.S. and Belgium was different to the tariff between the U.S. and Germany.
Amid the rising trade conflict between the EU and the U.S., Trump announced on multiple occasions his intentions to levy a high punitive tariff on European products.
However, it could incur reprisals from the EU, according to the Sueddeutsche Zeitung, which reports that the EU is preparing for appropriate countermeasures.
The EU is in global trade negotiations with around 20 countries, including Japan, Singapore and Vietnam, seeking to fill the void created by Trump’s “America First” policy and the corresponding departure from global trade.