US President Donald Trump criticized Germany on trade this week, calling the country “very bad” for its trade policies during a meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on the eve of the G7 Summit.
“The Germans are bad, very bad,” Trump told the European Commission President. “Look at the millions of cars that they’re selling in the USA. Horrible. We’re gonna stop that.”
Early reports unfairly characterized Trump’s statements as being anti-German, according to White House Economic Adviser Gary Cohn. “He said they’re very bad on trade, but he doesn’t have a problem with Germany,” Cohn said. Reuters reports that German papers translated the English “bad” to the German “boese,” which can mean “evil.” That caused a stir when the German reports were translated back to English.
Jean-Claude Juncker expressed a similar sentiment. “It’s not true that the president took an aggressive approach when it came to the German trade surplus,” Juncker remarked. “He said, like others have, that [the US] has a problem with the German surplus. So he was not aggressive at all.”
Still, Trump seems keen on reducing the United States’ trade deficit with Germany, which last year reached a record $283 billion. In January, he reportedly threatened a tax of 35 percent on German auto imports, although he’s so far made no mention of German auto plants in the US, which employee American workers and actually help lower the trade deficit. Those plants include BMW’s South Carolina assembly plant, and Volkswagen’s Chattanooga Assembly Plant in Tennessee.
The president has embraced a more protectionist approach to the US economy than his recent predecessors, also blasting American carmakers like Ford and General Motors for their manufacturing investments in Mexico.