BERLIN: U.S. President Donald Trump’s executive orders on trade deficits and import duty evasion are a sign that Washington plans to move away from free trade and international agreements, German Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries said on Saturday.
Trump instructed his administration on Friday to study the causes of U.S. trade deficits and clamp down on countries that abuse trade rules in two executive orders he said would open a new chapter for U.S. workers and businesses.
Zypries said that while the executive orders were initially only reviews, “they show, however, that the U.S. obviously wants to move away from free trade and trade agreements.”
“We must seek constructive dialogue and explain that the reasons for the U.S. trade deficit are not just abroad,” the minister said, adding that she would raise the issue in talks with U.S. counterparts during a trip to Washington in May.
For years, the United States has been importing more goods from Germany than it exports to Europe’s biggest economy, due to the relatively strong competitiveness of German firms and the high demand among U.S. customers for ‘Made in Germany’ goods.
The resulting U.S. trade deficit with Germany has nearly doubled in the past 10 years from some 28.8 billion euros in 2006 to 49 billion euros in 2016, according to data from Germany’s Federal Statistics Office.
Trump’s trade adviser Peter Navarro has accused Germany of exploiting other countries through a “grossly undervalued” euro. This sparked a sharp response from German Chancellor Angela Merkel who said the European Central Bank is in charge of the euro and the central bank is a politically independent body.
In a further sign of increased tensions between Germany and the United States, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel urged the European Union on Friday to consider filing a complaint with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) against the United States over its plan to impose duties on imports of steel plate from five EU member states.