Trump meets with German auto executives

Donald Trump met Tuesday with executives of Germany's three top auto manufacturers, amid efforts by Washington and Brussels to resolve the US president's complaints about imbalanced trade in the sector.

Trump meets with German auto executives
The front of a Volkswagen dealership in Boston in the U.S. Photo: DPA

After the talks, the executives sounded optimistic about averting Trump's threat to impose tariffs on auto imports.

The White House said Trump had encouraged the automakers to produce more in the United States, where they are already significant manufacturers.

“The president shared his vision of all automakers producing in the United States and creating a more friendly business environment,” the White House said in a statement following the meeting.

In July, Washington and Brussels announced a truce in their tit-for-tat tariff battle after Trump threatened to impose duties on European auto imports, citing national security.

Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche, who knows the US well, as he used to live here and ran Chrysler, gave an upbeat assessment after Tuesday's talks with Trump.

“I would say that this implicit potential threat (of tariffs) was reduced,” said Zetsche.

He added, “there was a very positive, pleasant atmosphere.”

Volkswagen chief executive Herbert Diess also expressed optimism.

“That's basically why we are here — to avoid the additional tariffs, and I think we are on a good way.”

Diess added, “I think we made a big step forward to avoid the tariffs.”

BMW, which maintains a major auto plant in South Carolina, said Tuesday the meeting had been “constructive” but that responsibility for international trade policy “rests solely with the relevant political institutions” – meaning Brussels will have the final say.

Within two years, the company said it plans to add 1,000 positions to the 10,000 workers employed in South Carolina at the Spartanburg plant, and is considering adding a second US site for power trains.

Earlier, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had said the aim of the meeting was to pare down the $30 billion trade deficit the US has with Germany in cars and auto parts, which amounts to half the $66 billion total deficit with the European nation.

“We're trying to get them all to increase their production in the US,” Ross said on CNBC prior to the meeting, noting that German plants were at capacity.

Trump was not initially scheduled to join the meeting with the German executives but press secretary Sarah Sanders announced there would be a “brief meeting” with Diess, Zetsche of Daimler and Nicolas Peter of BMW.

The US president has for months been threatening tariffs on imported autos, which would primarily hit Germany, but has pledged not to take any steps against the European Union while negotiations are underway following the July agreement.

Trump “said he will not impose tariffs on autos on the Europeans as long as negotiations with them are making good progress so the timing of this whole thing will largely be driven by what happens in negotiations,” Ross said.

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Two hospitalized in Munich after activist crashes parachute into Euro 2020 stadium

At least two people were hospitalised Tuesday after a Greenpeace activist crash-landed on the pitch before the Germany-France match at Euro 2020 when his powered parachute microlight struck spidercam cables at Munich's Allianz Arena.

Two hospitalized in Munich after activist crashes parachute into Euro 2020 stadium
The activist lands on the turf of the Allianz Arena. credit: dpa | Christian Charisius

The pilot flew over the pitch just before kick-off in the Group F clash with “Kick out oil” written on the canopy of his parachute.

However, when the pilot hit television cables above the pitch, it knocked his microlight off balance and he landed on the turf after clipping one of the stands, where the casualties happened.

The activist was arrested soon after landing.

A Munich police spokesman told AFP that at least two people suffered head injuries and “both had to be taken to hospital, we don’t know yet how serious the injuries are”.

The police spokesman said the activist appears to have escaped injury, but “we are considering various criminal charges. Munich police has zero understanding for political actions that put lives at risk”.

UEFA also slammed the botched stunt.

“This inconsiderate act – which could have had very serious consequences for a huge number of people attending – caused injuries to several people attending the game who are now in hospital and law authorities will take the necessary action,” European football’s governing body said in a statement.

The parachutist above the stadium. Photo: dpa | Matthias Balk

“The staging of the match was fortunately not impacted by such a reckless and dangerous action, but several people were injured nonetheless.”

The stunt was a protest against German car manufacturer Volkswagen, one of the sponsors of the European Championship, Greenpeace explained in a Twitter post.

“UEFA and its partners are fully committed to a sustainable Euro 2020 tournament and many initiatives have been implemented to offset carbon emissions,” said UEFA.

Greenpeace said they regretted any harm caused.

“This protest was never intended to disrupt the game or hurt people,” read a Twitter post on Greenpeace’s official German account.

“We hope that everyone is OK and that no one was seriously injured. Greenpeace actions are always peaceful and non-violent.”

“Unfortunately, not everything went according to plan.”

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