US working with German automakers to lower tariffs on vehicles: Ambassador Grenell

While President Trump continues to threaten tariffs on auto imports from the European Union, U.S. Ambassador to Germany Ric Grenell said Sunday he is working with German officials toward lowering tariffs on American autos.

“We’re talking to the government of Germany and the auto industry in Germany to try to see if there’s a path forward for 0% tariffs,” Grenell told “Sunday Morning Futures.” “We don’t know if there is, but what we’re trying to do is get the facts. Talk to the industry, talk to the German government, which obviously this issue is all about the EU.”

Grenell reportedly met with executives of German automakers Daimler, BMW and Volkswagen in Berlin last week to discuss the duties on autos. Trump threatened last month to impose a 20% import tax on all vehicles assembled in the European Union, which currently has a 10% tariff on U.S. auto imports. The current U.S. import tariff rate is 2.5% on cars and 25% on trucks.

He said the goal is to create “momentum” and “good news” that could surround the trade deal with the European Union, and is focusing on the auto industry since it is a “huge part” of it.

Additionally, the ambassador discussed German defense spending, which Trump has also criticized for being too little. The country spent slightly more than 1% of its GDP on defense in 2017, and plans to increase the number to 1.5% by 2024 – a commitment it made at the Wales summit in 2014. Germany expects to bring military spending up to 2% of its GDP at a later time.

“Currently, the Germans don’t spend enough,” Grenell said. “And so what we are doing is urging the Germans to keep their commitment and other countries to keep their commitments to that NATO pledge, increase NATO spending by 2024. That’s the commitment that they made, and although steps have been made, more needs to be done to keep that 2% commitment.”