Angela Merkel and François Hollande have responded curtly but defiantly after Donald Trump cast further doubt on his commitment to Nato and gave strong hints that he would not support EU cohesion once in office.
We Europeans have our fate in our own hands, the German chancellor said after the publication of the US president-elect’s interviews with the Times and German tabloid Bild. He has presented his positions once more. They have been known for a while. My positions are also known.
Shutterstock Donald Trump transition meetings, New York, USA – 13 Jan 2017 In the Times interview, Trump complained that Nato had become obsolete because it hadn’t taken care of terror a comment later welcomed by the Kremlin. He suggested that other European countries would follow in Britain’s footsteps and leave the EU.
Hollande, the French president, retorted by saying Europe did not need to be told what to do by outsiders.
Europe will be ready to pursue transatlantic cooperation, but it will based on its interests and values, Hollande said on Monday. It does not need outside advice to tell it what to do.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is pictured during a news conference held with New Zealand’s Prime Minister Bill English at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany, on Jan. 16, 2017. Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, said the criticism of Nato had caused concern in the political and military alliance.
I’ve spoken today not only with EU foreign ministers but Nato foreign ministers as well and can report that the signals are that there’s been no easing of tensions, he said.
Other senior members of Merkel’s government were quick to defend Germany’s policies after Trump criticised the chancellor’s handling of the refugee crisis and threatened a 35% tariff on BMW cars imported to the US.
Responding to Trump’s comments that Merkel had made an utterly catastrophic mistake by letting all these illegals into the country, the deputy chancellor and minister for the economy, Sigmar Gabriel, said the increase in the number of people fleeing the Middle East to seek asylum in Europe had partially been a result of US-led wars destabilising the region.
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.
In that area, Germany and Europe are already making enormous achievements and that’s why I also thought it wasn’t right to talk about defence spending, where Mr Trump says we are spending too little to finance Nato. We are making gigantic financial contributions to refugee shelters in the region, and these are also the results of US interventionist policy.
John Kerry, the outgoing US secretary of state, also responded tartly to Trump’s criticisms of Merkel, warning him he would need to rein in his views once he took office.
I thought, frankly, it was inappropriate for a president-elect of the United States to be stepping in to the politics of other countries in a quite direct manner, Kerry told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour. As of Friday, he’s responsible for that relationship.
But I think we have to be very careful about suggesting that one of the strongest leaders in Europe – and one of the most important in respect of where we are heading – made one mistake or another.
Gabriel, who is expected to run as the centre-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. This isn’t about making ourselves submissive. 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. We are not inferior to him, we have something to bring to the table, too.
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.
The German foreign ministry rejected Trump’s criticism that creating security zones in Syria would have been considerably cheaper than accepting refugees fleeing the war-torn country.
What exactly such a security zone is meant to be is beyond my comprehension and would have to be explained, said Martin Schäfer, a spokesman for the German foreign ministry.
Schäfer also rejected Trump’s labelling of the EU as a vehicle for Germany. He said: “For the German government, Europe has never been a means to an end but a community of fate which, in times of collapsing old orders, is more important than ever.
Hints of a fundamental shift in US trade policy sent shockwaves through German politics and business.
In his interview, Trump indicated that he would aim to realign the out of balance car trade between Germany and the US. 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.
Asked what Trump could do to make sure German customers bought more American cars, Gabriel said: Build better cars.
Shares in BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen fell on Monday morning following Trump’s comments. BMW shares were down 0.85%, shares in Daimler were 1.54% lower and Volkswagen shares were trading 1.07% down in early trading in Frankfurt.
All three carmakers have invested heavily in factories in Mexico, where production costs are lower than the US, with an eye to exporting smaller vehicles to the US market.
A BMW spokeswoman said a BMW Group plant in the central Mexican city of San Luis Potosi would build the BMW 3 Series from 2019, with the output intended for the world market. The plant in Mexico would be an addition to existing 3 Series production facilities in Germany and China.
But Gabriel said on Monday that a tax on German imports would lead to a bad awakening among US carmakers since they were reliant on transatlantic supply chains.
I believe BMW’s biggest factory is already in the US, in Spartanburg [South Carolina], Gabriel, leader of the SPD, told Bild in a video interview.
The US car industry would have a bad awakening if all the supply parts that aren’t being built in the US were to suddenly come with a 35% tariff. I believe it would make the US car industry weaker, worse and above all more expensive. I would wait and see what Congress has to say about that, which is mostly full of people who want the opposite of Trump.