German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) has warned U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday to expect a firm response from the European Union (EU) to new protectionist measures.
Speaking during an appearance on the public broadcaster ARD, Maas said that he was still hopeful that the trade conflict could be resolved consensually. Nevertheless, Europe would not “allow itself to be threatened and would not simply surrender” if Trump chose to escalate the dispute further.
The German foreign minister argued that Washington would leave Brussels with no other choice than to retaliate against a raft of new U.S. tariffs. Otherwise, the credibility of the bloc and the wider system of rules-based free trade would suffer lasting damage.
Maas emphasized that it was crucial for Europe as a whole, but Germany and France in particular, to speak with one voice on trade in order to be heard on a global level. Member states which became divided on the issue would be at the mercy of greater non-European powers without having any effective say over their own future.
According to the German Social Democrat (SPD), no one could be seriously interested in the imposition of new and higher import tariffs as threatened again recently by the U.S. “At the end of the day, all sides will lose, including the American side”, he said. He consequently hoped that Washington would ultimately renege and depart from the protectionist path which it had embarked upon.
The Federation of German Industries (BDI) recently argued that the key to resolving the U.S.-EU trade dispute lay in creating a “shared understanding of the facts.” Amongst others, the bloc needed to highlight that the German automotive industry employed over 118,000 staff in the U.S. and exported 60 percent of its local production to different countries.
Maas is scheduled to make visits to South Korea and Japan in the coming days where he will also discuss the possibility of a joint response from the EU and other countries affected by new U.S. tariffs. On Wednesday, EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem are also scheduled to hold widely-anticipated direct talks with Trump in Washington.