German Auto Executives Meet With U.S. Officials to Ward Off Costly Car Tariffs

December 4, 2018, 9:07 PM UTC

Chief executives from German automakers BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen are to meet with U.S. officials Tuesday to discuss trade relations.

The executives are expected to offer further investments in the U.S.—potentially including engine production and electric car manufacturing—in exchange for the White House revoking its threat of European auto tariffs.

In July, President Donald Trump threatened to implement large tariffs on cars imported from the EU—a move that would have massive impacts on the auto economy, considering the U.S. brought in just over $43 billion worth of passenger vehicles from the EU in 2017, Business Insider reported.

On Tuesday morning, ahead of his team’s meeting with the German automakers, Trump referred to himself as a “Tariff Man” in a charged tweet on the wealth such taxes bring to the U.S.

Speaking to reporters Monday, however, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow ensured that no decision has been made in regards to EU auto tariffs.

“I know there has been talk, but I don’t think this meeting [with the German chief executives], or anything else for that matter right now, is moving towards car tariffs,” said Kudlow, according to the Financial Times. “The president has said it is in his quiver of arrows sure, but none of that is changed, it is not worse or better.”

Along with Kudlow, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are among those meeting with the German executives. Reuters reports that Trump himself will also be meeting with the automakers in a late addition to the schedule.

The meeting is unique in that the Trump administration is essentially holding trade discussions with companies themselves, rather than another governmental agency—a move that’s reportedly irked the EU’s trade commission.

“Responsibility for trade policy negotiations lies with the European Commission,” Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, said Monday according to The New York Times. “Not with national governments. And definitely not with the auto companies.”