Update: March 18 at 10:00 am. Donald J. Trump acted like President Frump on Friday at the White House. Looking like he was sucking on a particularly sour lemon, he refused to make eye contact with Angela Merkel or shake her hand. Instead, he glowered at the floor. The man is a national embarrassment.
Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, is scheduled to meet for one hour with president Trump today, March 17. The CEOs of three major German corporations will participate in the meeting as well. Topics on the table before the American taxpayers pay to send Emperor Trump jetting south for his regular weekend of golf, tweeting, and serial sexual assaults include a proposed 35% tax on cars BMW plans to build at a new factory in Mexico.
“America profits from free trade. We are supporters of free trade and not of protectionism,” Krueger told the press last week at the Geneva auto show. Germany presently enjoys a hefty trade surplus with the United States. Nevertheless, the Germans intend to impress upon the president that German companies employ some 81,000 people in the US with total sales of $32 billion.
BMW’s factory in South Carolina is the largest in the world. The majority of the cars assembled there are exported to other countries, which helps America’s balance of trade policies. Recently, a senior administration official huffed that Germany is benefiting unfairly from a weak Euro. The European currency has declined significantly since the Brexit vote last year and is now almost equal to the US dollar.
“The accusations of President Donald Trump and his advisers are plucked out of thin air,” the president of Germany’s VDMA engineering industry association, Carl Martin Welcker, said in a statement on Monday.
Trump has also popped off about how many Mercedes cars he sees on the streets of New York. Chancellor Merkel has tried to respond in an adult fashion to the blusterer in chief by pointing out that many Germans carry Apple iPhones. “We’re proud that we have good products, just as the Americans are proud that they have good products,” Merkel said.
Others in Germany have not been polite. One auto industry executive was heard to mutter recently that if the American car companies want to sell more cars in Europe, they should begin by building better cars. Ouch!
Trump has also expressed an interest in German policies that favor on-the-job training and sending workers to classes at local universities. Those policies have helped German companies succeed in foreign environments, especially in countries with developing economies. Trump may be all in favor of “America First!,” but if he can steal a page from the Germans, he will be only too happy to do so.
Bernhard Mattes, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany, wrote this week that both countries must work to prevent a deterioration of trade relations. “Even though we currently see the likelihood of a trade war between the United States and Europe as small, the topic is still present and not completely off the table,” Mattes wrote.
“We call on those responsible to do everything possible to avoid a standstill or even a worsening of our trade relations. In a trade war, there can be no winners as the global economy is too networked and our supply chains too international.”
“Protectionist measures like punitive customs, import taxes, or the termination of international trade treaties would therefore only help the US economy temporarily,” he wrote.
Mattes has history on his side. Several decades ago, the US government tried to shelter American car companies from competition by Japanese manufacturers. The result was the American companies felt they could build crappy cars, which they did in great abundance. Meanwhile, the Japanese moved production to the US and ate the Big Three’s lunch.
Trump has shown he is incapable of thinking in anything but the broadest generalities. If it won’t fit in a tweet, it is too complex for him to grasp. Because he is the president, what he says when he pops off on Twitter carries a great deal of weight, even if what he says is utter nonsense.
For her part, Angela Merkel once suffered the indignity of having George W. Bush massage her shoulders in public. Based on Trump’s past antics, she may feel relieved if that’s all that happens to her at today’s meeting.