Execs From BMW, Mercedes & VW Called to White House for Trade Talks
FRANKFURT — Executives from German automotive companies including BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen have been called to talks with White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Tuesday, a source familiar with the discussions told Reuters.
The meeting comes after Trump said China agreed to "reduce and remove" tariffs on cars exported from the United States.
Along with the ongoing trade disputes with China, the Trump administration is considering tariffs on imported vehicles from Europe, mainly expensive luxury models from Germany. Trump administration has summoned requested the meeting as part of a campaign to "rebalance" global trade flows.
BMW said on Monday that Chief Financial Officer Nicolas Peter will attend the meeting in Washington, while Daimler said Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche will be in attendance. Volkswagen declined to comment on whether its CEO Herbert Diess will travel to the U.S. to attend the sessions.
The German car bosses will underline the European Commission's plea to cut tariffs on cars and to explain the importance that German industry plays as a net exporter of vehicles from the United States, a person familiar with the discussions told Reuters on Monday.
BMW is the largest German exporter of vehicles built in its U.S. factory in South Carolina. Earlier this year, BMW announced that it exported 272,346 BMW X models from the Spartanburg plant during 2017, with an export value of approximately $8.76 billion, according to data from the U.S. Department of Commerce. Most of these vehicles were exported to China.
"We are worried about tariffs. The German automotive industry relies on open markets," a senior German car executive, who was traveling to Washington, told Reuters.
"Countries have interests that they intend to pursue. We will look at addressing these issues. In this context, we appreciate the talks are taking place, it is better to talk with each other than about each other."
Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche poses with the electric Mercedes Benz EQ concept vehicle
President Trump, who has taken an aggressive stance on trade issues, agreed in July not to impose higher duties on EU cars while the two sides sought to improve ties on other matters, such as regulatory cooperation, energy, and a deal to remove tariffs on industrial goods.
Germany's Wirtschaftswoche magazine last week reported that the U.S. Department of Commerce would recommend a 25 percent customs duty on car imports from all countries except Canada and Mexico.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that although the European Union is formally responsible for negotiating trade on behalf of Germany, German carmakers play an important role in global trade.
"The German carmaker, or the German firms, are big employers in the United States of America so there is definitely reason to talk to the U.S. administration about issues like what investments and what future the German carmakers see as American employers," she said on Monday.
Trump has been targeting German automakers since last spring with the threat of higher tariffs. A report in WirtschaftsWoche cites unnamed diplomatic sources who said that Trump told French president Emmanuel Macron in April that he would maintain his trade policy "until no Mercedes models rolled on Fifth Avenue in New York."
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