Berlin, May 1 (IANS) German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier has called for further diplomatic negotiations to resolve the international trade conflict unleashed by the protectionist policies of US President Donald Trump.
Speaking to radio station Deutschlandfunk on Monday, Altmaier acknowledged that Germany currently ran a trade surplus with the US, but said Berlin could not simply promise that exports from its national firms would fall, Xinhua reported.
Instead, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) politician recommended the European Union (EU) make a “concrete” offer to Washington that includes mutual tariff reductions.
The EU has already prepared a host of retaliatory measures in response to the potential economic threat posed by the US administration’s “America First” doctrine. Altmaier said the bloc would now “decide together” whether EU tariffs on US products like bourbon whiskey and Harley-Davidson motorbikes would actually take effect.
Altmaier’s comments came shortly after the federal government warned that the EU would most likely become subject to new US tariffs on aluminium and steel from May 1 onwards.
Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have failed to persuade Trump to extend an exemption currently enjoyed by the bloc during recent visits to Washington.
Peter Beyer, the official transatlantic commissioner of the German government, told Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung newspaper on Monday that even a limited extension of the EU’s special status would be a success. Nevertheless, Beyer said he would not place “too much hope” in securing such an outcome.
The minster cautioned EU member states on Monday against being too hasty in their response and thus contributing to an unnecessary escalation of the conflict. Although a complete re-launch of the failed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is unrealistic after Trump abandoned the pact, Altmaier argued it may still be possible to rescue parts of it.
Similarly, President of the German Federation of Industry (BDI) Joachim Lang pleaded for “moderation” on behalf of the European side in the trade conflict. Echoing wider calls among German industry for a “TTIP light” version of the original agreement, Lang supported the idea of a mutual tariff reduction as a “good first step”.
If the United States allows the EU’s current exemption to expire on May 1, EU member states such as Germany will become affected by tariffs of 10 per cent on aluminium and 25 per cent on steel imports.