Germany sees hardest part of trade talks ahead
THE most difficult part in trade negotiations between Europe and the US is starting now and talks should focus on reducing tariffs on industrial goods to increase the chances of a deal, said German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier.
A confidential US Commerce Department report sent to President Donald Trump over the weekend is widely expected to clear the way for him to threaten tariffs of up to 25pc on imported autos and auto parts by designating the imports a national security threat.
"For some weeks and months now, we're observing with concern that the US is tightening its trade policies, that tensions are increasing," Mr Altmaier told Deutschlandfunk radio.
"The impact can already be seen in the world economy, global growth has slowed," Mr Altmaier said.
Asked about the risk of higher US car tariffs, Mr Altmaier said he did not buy the argument that imported cars would threaten the national security of the United States.
Mr Altmaier, a confidant of Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that reducing tariffs on cars and other manufactured goods should be the main focus of the ongoing trade talks.
"We are not yet where we want to be. We might have made one-third of the way and the most difficult part will be now," Mr Altmaier said.
He added that he was in favour of reducing import tariffs for cars to the same level in the US and Europe, "ideally to zero percent".
Meanwhile, France and Germany have agreed a joint plan for industrial policy in Europe, aiming to support local companies to compete with foreign rivals and better protect key technologies from overseas takeovers.
The move is driven by concerns about foreign - particularly Chinese - companies acquiring European know-how and eroding the manufacturing base on which much of the continent's wealth is built.
The proposals, presented by Mr Altmaier and his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire after talks in Berlin, call for more investment in innovative technologies and an overhaul of the EU's competition rules.
"Europe will only remain a great industrial continent if we're able to join forces, change European rules that are now outdated and better protect ourselves," Mr Le Maire said.