Trump Meets with German Carmakers Ahead of Possible New Tariffs

President Donald Trump met Tuesday with German automakers as his administration weighs imposing new tariffs on imported vehicles and auto parts.

Earlier Tuesday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said reducing the trade deficit in cars and parts with Germany was a priority, noting that it could be achieved by increasing production by German automakers in the United States.

“On balance we’re a big net importer of cars from Germany and parts for German cars both from Germany, from Austria and from Mexico. It’s a very, very important component of the European situation. And autos and auto parts are a big part of the global,” he said in an interview for CNBC.

Representatives from BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen visited the White House, where they met separately with Trump’s top economic advisers.

After the meeting, BMW issued a statement saying free trade was of utmost importance, citing its own success in the U.S. as a result of the reduction of trade barriers. At the moment, the company operates its biggest plant in the world in Spartanburg, South Carolina, with about 10,000 employees. The automaker is considering building a second plant in the United States.

Daimler and Volkswagen, which also operate in the United States, did not comment on the meeting.

President Trump has complained about the European Union’s trade barriers for some time now, resulting in his imposition of tariffs on steel and aluminum from the region, CNN writes. The EU then responded with retaliatory duties on a number of American imports, such as motorcycles, peanut butter and cigarettes.

However, Ross stressed in the Tuesday interview that Trump would not “impose tariffs on autos on the Europeans as long as negotiations with them are making good progress.”

The Commerce Department has been looking into the effects of imposing tariffs on all foreign vehicles and auto parts since May. It could justify levying duties by arguing it is a national security issue, which BMW immediately responded to, saying competition from foreign automakers does not threaten the national security of the United States.

“Removing both U.S. and EU automotive duties entirely is in the best interest of German auto manufacturers, as it would save them an estimated €1 billion per year. We expect similar savings would be realized by U.S. auto manufacturers as well,” the company said.

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