Trump meets with Ger­man auto ex­ec­u­tives

The Phnom Penh Post - - BUSINESS -

US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump met with ex­ec­u­tives of Ger­many’s three top auto man­u­fac­tur­ers on Tues­day, amid ef­forts by Wash­ing­ton and Brus­sels to re­solve the US pres­i­dent’s com­plaints about im­bal­anced trade in the sec­tor.

Af­ter the talks, the ex­ec­u­tives sounded op­ti­mistic about avert­ing Trump’s threat to im­pose tar­iffs on auto im­ports.

The White House said Trump had en­cour­aged the au­tomak­ers to pro­duce more in the US, where they are al­ready sig­nif­i­cant man­u­fac­tur­ers.

“The pres­i­dent shared his vi­sion of all au­tomak­ers pro­duc­ing in the US and cre­at­ing a more friendly busi­ness en­vi­ron­ment,” the White House said in a state­ment fol­low­ing the meet­ing.

In July, Wash­ing­ton and Brus­sels an­nounced a truce in their tit-for-tat tar- iff bat­tle af­ter Trump threat­ened to im­pose du­ties on Euro­pean auto im­ports, cit­ing na­tional se­cu­rity.

Daim­ler CEO Di­eter Zetsche, who knows the US well as he lived there when he ran Chrysler, gave an up­beat as­sess­ment af­ter Tues­day’s talks with Trump.

“I would say that this im­plicit po­ten­tial threat [of tar­iffs] was re­duced – there was a very pos­i­tive, pleas­ant at­mos­phere,” said Zetsche.

Volk­swa­gen CEO Her­bert Diess also ex­pressed op­ti­mism.

“That’s ba­si­cally why we are here – to avoid the ad­di­tional tar­iffs, and I think we are on a good way. I think we made a big step for­ward to avoid the tar­iffs,” Diess said.

BMW, which main­tains a ma­jor auto plant in South Carolina, said on Tues­day the meet­ing had been “con­struc­tive” but that re­spon­si­bil­ity for in­ter­na­tional trade pol­icy “rests solely with the rel­e­vant po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tions” – mean­ing Brus­sels will have the fi­nal say.

Within two years, the com­pany said it plans to add 1,000 po­si­tions to the 10,000 work­ers em­ployed in South Carolina at the Spar­tan­burg plant, and is con­sid­er­ing adding a sec­ond US site for power trains.

Com­merce Sec­re­tary Wil­bur Ross pre­vi­ously said the aim of the meet­ing was to pare down the $30 bil­lion trade deficit the US has with Ger­many in cars and auto parts, which amounts to half the $66 bil­lion to­tal deficit with the Euro­pean na­tion.

“We’re try­ing to get them all to in­crease their pro­duc­tion in the US,” Ross said on CNBC prior to the meet­ing, not­ing that Ger­man plants were at ca­pac­ity.

Trump was not ini­tially sched­uled to join the meet­ing with the Ger­man ex­ec­u­tives but press sec­re­tary Sarah San­ders an­nounced there would be a “brief meet­ing” with Diess, Daim­ler’s Zetsche and BMW’s Ni­co­las Peter.

The US pres­i­dent has for months been threat­en­ing tar­iffs on im­ported au­tos, which would pri­mar­ily hit Ger­many, but has pledged not to take any steps against the EU while ne­go­ti­a­tions are un­der­way fol­low­ing the July agree­ment.

Trump “said he will not im­pose tar­iffs on au­tos on the Euro­peans as long as ne­go­ti­a­tions with them are mak­ing good progress so the tim­ing of this whole thing will largely be driven by what hap­pens in ne­go­ti­a­tions,” Ross said.

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