Trump in Brussels 'The Germans Are Bad, Very Bad'

At a meeting with European Union leaders on Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump was sharply critical of Germany. DER SPIEGEL spoke with meeting participants.

U.S. President Donald Trump

U.S. President Donald Trump

By in Brussels

U.S. President Donald Trump voiced significant displeasure over Germany's trade surplus on Thursday during a meeting with European Union leaders in Brussels. "The Germans are bad, very bad," Trump said, according to meeting participants.

The participants told DER SPIEGEL that Trump went on to say: "See the millions of cars they are selling to the U.S. Terrible. We will stop this."

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker showed solidarity with the Germans at the meeting and contradicted Trump's rebuke. Free trade benefits everybody, Juncker said. Participants at the meeting who spoke with DER SPIEGEL said that Juncker tried to maintain a collegial tone, but remained uncompromising on that point.

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During the roughly one-hour meeting, Trump met initially with European Council President Donald Tusk and Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker. After about 45 minutes, they were joined by others, including European Parliament President Antonio Tajani and the EU's chief diplomat, Federica Mogherini.

According to a report in the German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, many EU officials were appalled by how little the Americans appeared to know about trade policy. The guests from Washington seemed not to be aware that EU member states only negotiate trade treaties as a bloc. According to the paper, Trump's chief economic advisor, Gary Cohn, claimed during meetings, for example, that different customs tariffs are in place between the U.S. and Germany than between the U.S. and Belgium.

'Not Gonna Happen'

For years, Germany has exported more than it imports and Trump has criticized the country's trade surplus before - in an interview with the German tabloid Bild prior to his inauguration, for example. In that interview, too, he voiced particular frustration at the number of German cars he sees on the streets of New York. "I would tell BMW if they think they're gonna build a plant in Mexico and sell cars into the U.S. without a 35 percent tax, it's not gonna happen. It's not gonna happen." It was a clear threat to slap punitive tariffs on German automobiles.

The new U.S. president finds Germany's surpluses unfair because they necessarily mean that its trading partners have a trade deficit, the U.S. in this case. But the German government has also been criticized within the EU for its trade surplus. In a recent interview with SPIEGEL, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble also said that the surplus was too large.

Still, after numerous meetings between European leaders and Trump along with several attempts to explain international trade policy, the EU thought that progress had been made. As Trump made clear on Thursday, however, that hope was in vain.


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Inglenda2 05/26/2017
1. Judge as you wish to be judged
In religion and politics, there will always be individuals who believe they have the right to say what what is good and what is bad. On the whole, this could be useful, were it not for the fact, that many of these persons are arrogant rather than intelligent. One person alone however would not be of great danger, were it not for the idiots who chose to follow such lines of thought, or scrupulous business people who fill their pockets by providing support to this absurd and dangrous way of thinking.
turnipseed 05/26/2017
2. The bad Germans
Trump says the Germans are bad because they sell too many cars in America., He doesn't seem to know that many of these vehicles are actually made in the USA. In any case, I think the Germans should start exporting bad cars to America so that Trump will be happy. Right after WWII we bought my sister a German bicycle and it was a piece of junk. So we stopped buying German goods for a long time thereafter. Trump would have been proud.
austen_lennon 05/26/2017
3. Der headline is corrupt...
This is probably one of the most disingenuous headlines on 2017.... every inch of it a twisted lie.... Trump said... 'Bad on Trade'.... the 'so called' journalist is talking like he is a twisted nationalist.
laraine 05/26/2017
4. trump
I apologize for the president (who is too ignorant to apologize for himself) and I apologize for my country. I hope that soon, very soon, we'll have a president who doesn't insult everyone.
cixel_syd 05/26/2017
Hilariously obvious attempt at a deceptive headline. When you cherry pick quotes, at least try not to cut off part of the quote halfway through the SAME sentence! It makes for much more believable headlines for the sheeple.
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