01 July, 2017
The chancellor's comments came just after Wilbur Ross, the US commerce secretary, addressed the audience of delegates via video-link, telling them US President Donald Trump was receptive to talks on what is known on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) to resume. "Now we look forward to the chancellor's speech", he continued.
Ross' comments included renewed criticism of Germany's trade surplus with the US, which President Donald Trump has used repeatedly to pillory Europe's biggest economy.
Bent on tackling trade deficits, the Trump Administration now appears to have its heart set on reducing the trade imbalance with European Union states, Germany in particular, in the hope it can open up their markets for U.S. firms.
The commerce department is invoking a Cold War-era trade law that allows the president to limit imports of certain products and materials deemed critical for national defense. "The fact that BMW's biggest auto factory is not in Germany but in the United States must also be kept in mind when considering trade balances", she said.
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"We, as major trading partners of each other, should have a free-trade agreement", he said.
Merkel and others have tried to explain that Germany is part of the European Union and therefore can't trade individually with the US - it's the whole bloc, or no one.
Germany's Economy Ministry later weighed in to the debate, saying Ross's criticism "contained nothing new" and dismissing a report he is compiling on the potential risks to the US of steel imports - a document that Germany fears could have grave consequences for its own steel industry. One of his first acts as president was to withdraw the U.S. from a similar free trade deal with the Asia-Pacific region.
It said the developments could be seen either as a clever move by Merkel, or as her being "outfoxed" by leftist parties.