German economy minister: Trump signals on trade "alarming"
New German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries, left, takes her seat on the cabinet table prior to the weekly cabinet meeting in the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Ferdinand Ostrop)
BERLIN — Germany’s economy minister says President Donald Trump’s administration has sent ‘alarming’ signals on trade so far, but in comments published Wednesday she said isolationism would also hurt the U.S. economy and it’s important to keep talking with Washington.
Germany has the biggest economy in the 28-nation European Union and is one of the world’s biggest exporters. It is wary of a more protectionist U.S. approach under the new administration.
‘What we have been experiencing for the last 10 days is alarming and disconcerting,’ Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries was quoted as telling German daily Bild. ‘This goes in completely the wrong direction.’
Asked what the German government can do to prevent a negative impact on German jobs, she replied: ‘We must talk, talk, talk. The kind of isolation Donald Trump apparently strives for would hurt everyone, including American business.’ She added that ‘U.S. business can have no interest in an escalation either.’
Zypries said, without specifying details, that some of what Trump has announced ‘is not compatible with the principles of the World Trade Organization.’
Zypries noted that 60 percent of German exports go to Europe and only about 10 percent to the United States. However, in 2015 — last year’s statistics are not yet available — the U.S. was Germany’s biggest single trading partner. German exports to the U.S. totaled 113.7 billion euros ($122 billion), while imports were worth 60.2 billion euros.
On Tuesday, Peter Navarro, who is to lead a new White House council on trade, was quoted in the Financial Times as saying that Germany is using a ‘grossly undervalued’ euro to ‘exploit’ the U.S. and its EU partners.
Chancellor Angela Merkel noted that the euro is overseen by the European Central Bank, and stressed Germany’s backing for the ECB’s independence — ‘so I can’t and don’t want to change anything about the situation.’
Beyond that, she said during a visit to Sweden Tuesday, ‘we try to succeed in world trade with competitive products, in fair competition with everyone else.’