US Secretary of Commerce unexpectedly cancels trip to Germany

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/6/28 9:25:30

US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has cancelled a planned visit to Germany for official talks on short notice, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) told reporters on Tuesday.

Ross was scheduled to meet with the German minister for economic affairs and energy Brigitte Zypries (SPD), as well as Chancellor Angela Merkel, on Tuesday in order to discuss the future of transatlantic trading relations.

The BMWi gave no explanation for the cancellation the trip.

The talks were called to address swelling tensions between Berlin and Washington caused by the increasingly divergent positions adopted by the United States and European Union on trade policy ever since Donald Trump assumed the office of US Presidency in January.

Together with their European allies, German politicians are irked by the protectionist "America First" agenda espoused by Trump.

The Republican candidate had been a vocal critic of globalization on the campaign trail, winning favor with blue collar voters by promising the return of manufacturing jobs to the American "rustbelt" which was once home to much of the country's industrial production.

Trump unilaterally froze trade talks for an accord between the European Union and United States known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in the first days of his presidency.

Trump has since repeatedly resisted declaring his administration's support for free trade in several joint statements with international allies, leading the German government to express fears that institutional architecture on which global commerce was built in the second half of the 20th century, centered on multilateral organizations like the Geneva-based World Trade Organization (WTO), was in danger of being unwound.

In turn, Trump and several of his senior aides have attacked Germany's trade surplus versus the United States, which they see as endangering US jobs and prosperity.

Peter Navarro, an official advising Trump on trade and industrial policy, went as far as to accuse Berlin of using a "grossly undervalued" euro to "exploit" the United States and European Union.

On the side-lines of a meeting with EU leaders in Brussels in May, President Trump himself showed little diplomatic restraint in branding Germany as "very bad on trade".

Furthermore, Trump has threatened German car makers with high import tariffs should they fail to move production to within the US on his infamous twitter account. He later reiterated the warning to impose such a 35-percent import tariff in an interview with German newspaper Bild.

Chancellor Merkel has been wary to fan flames in the ongoing spat, but announced her government's intention to intensify German and EU cooperation with other international partners, including China in lieu of Washington.

Sounding the launching bell of what increasingly resembles an open trade war, the European Union and United States have recently also become involved in a heated row over tariffs on steel imports.

Back in April, Trump announced an investigation into the possibility of imposing a blanket tariff on steel imports, regardless of origin, in the name of "national security" to protect the American steel industry from what he perceives as unfair international competition.

Such measures would hit German and European steel manufacturers hard, leading to warnings from EU officials in Brussels on Monday that the continental bloc would be forced to retaliate.

Cecilia Malmstroem, EU trade commissioner, further questioned whether a generalized tariff on steel import, justified on the grounds of national security, could ever be compliant with WTO rules for international trade.

The Trump administration has refused to rule out publishing a report detailing the outcome of the investigation ahead of the G20 summit in the northern German city of Hamburg on July 7.

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