by WorldTribune Staff, January 17, 2017
Germany will not make itself “submissive” to Donald Trump, the country’s deputy chancellor said in response to the president-elect’s scathing criticism of Berlin over the weekend.
“We are not inferior to him, we have something to bring to the table too,” Sigmar Gabriel, who is also minister of the economy, said on Jan. 16. “Especially in this phase in which Europe is rather weak, we will have to pull ourselves together and act with self-confidence and stand up for our own interests.”
Gabriel was responding to Trump’s criticism of German Chancellor Angela Merkel in two separate interviews on Jan. 15, one with Germany’s Bild and one with the Sunday Times, for her stance during the refugee crisis. Trump also threatened a 35 percent tariff on BMW cars imported into the U.S.
“What he says about trade issues, how he might treat German carmakers, the question about NATO, his view on the European Union – all these require a self-confident position, not just on behalf of us Germans but all Europeans,” Gabriel said.
Responding to Trump’s comments that Merkel had made an “utterly catastrophic mistake by letting all these illegals into the country,” Gabriel said the increase in the number of people fleeing the Middle East to seek asylum in Europe had partially been a result of U.S.-led wars that destabilized the region.
Gabriel slammed the Obama administration – as well as Merkel’s close friend Hillary Clinton – as being the culprits for the European refugee crisis.
“There is a link between America’s flawed interventionist policy, especially the Iraq war, and the refugee crisis, that’s why my advice would be that we shouldn’t tell each other what we have done right or wrong, but that we look into establishing peace in that region and do everything to make sure people can find a home there again,” Gabriel said.
Gabriel said that Trump’s threats to tax German imports would lead to a “bad awakening” among U.S. automakers since they were reliant on transatlantic supply chains. “I believe BMW’s biggest factory is already in the U.S., in Spartanburg [South Carolina],” Gabriel, leader of the center-left Social Democratic party, told Bild.
“The U.S. car industry would have a bad awakening if all the supply parts that aren’t being built in the U.S. were to suddenly come with a 35 percent tariff. I believe it would make the U.S. car industry weaker, worse and above all more expensive.”
In his interviews with Bild and the Times, Trump indicated that he would aim to realign the “out of balance” car trade between Germany and the U.S. “If you go down Fifth Avenue everyone has a Mercedes Benz in front of his house, isn’t that the case?” he said. “How many Chevrolets do you see in Germany? Not very many, maybe none at all … it’s a one-way street.”
So, when asked what Trump could do to make sure German customers bought more American cars, Gabriel had a simple suggestion: “Build better cars.”
Gabriel, who will likely run as the center-left candidate against Merkel in Germany’s federal elections in September, said Trump’s election should encourage Europeans to stand up for themselves.
“On the one hand, Trump is an elected president. When he is in office, we will have to work with him and his government – respect for a democratic election alone demands that,” Gabriel said. “On the other hand, you need to have enough self-confidence.”