|May 30, 2018-- German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) has sharply criticized plans by the U.S. Trump administration to raise tariffs on imported cars on Tuesday.
Speaking at the Global Solutions Summit in Berlin, Maas revealed to his audience that he reacted with disbelief when he first learned during a visit to Washington that Trump was resorting to a 1960s law to justify punitive tariffs on the grounds of national security.
At the time, the German foreign minister asked his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo whether he "seriously" thought that "German cars endanger national security." To the contrary, "German cars make American roads safer," Maas added in a mocking reference to a series of recent accidents caused by self-driving vehicles of the U.S. companies Tesla and Google.
U.S. import tariffs on foreign-manufactured vehicles could rise to 25 percent under new protectionist legislation compared to a relatively low duty currently levied on most passenger vehicles brought to the country of 2.5 percent. The change would consequently lead to a significant rise in cost shouldered by the German automotive industry in the U.S. market.
Maas warned on Tuesday that it was "obvious" that such a measure would be "especially targeted at German cars." Germany has been repeatedly chastised by U.S. President Donald Trump, as for allegedly contributing to global imbalances with its export-driven growth model.
The foreign minister complained that protectionism consequently increasingly dominated discussion between Berlin and Washington. He argued that Trump was making a mistake by allowing the balance of trade to "become the yardstick for political relations" between two states.