Trump undercuts White House messaging in critical remarks about Germany’s trade surplus

Germany may no longer be able to rely on the United States.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks with President Donald Trump during a photo with G7 leaders at the Ancient Greek Theater of Taormina, during the G7 Summit, Friday, May 26, 2017, in Taormina, Italy. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks with President Donald Trump during a photo with G7 leaders at the Ancient Greek Theater of Taormina, during the G7 Summit, Friday, May 26, 2017, in Taormina, Italy. CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Days after President Donald Trump returned from his first overseas trip as the president, he warned that the U.S.-German trade relationship is “very bad” and suggested “this will change,” following a reportedly closed-door meeting last week when he criticized Germany’s trade surplus.

“We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany, plus they pay FAR LESS than they should on NATO & military,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday. “Very bad for U.S. This will change”

The president’s latest tweet comes two days after German Chancellor Angela Merkel hinted that her country couldn’t “fully rely” on countries like the United States in part because of “what I experienced in the last few days.” The German chancellor reiterated Tuesday that the German-U.S. relationship is of “outstanding importance,” but suggested that Europe would “take our fate into our own hands” moving forward.

Last week, Trump and Merkel both attended meetings at a NATO summit meeting in Brussels and a Group of 7 (G7) meeting in Taormina, Italy. The most contentious issues were on climate and trade, with Trump planning to pull the United States out of the Paris climate deal. His critical remarks on Germany’s trade policy raised eyebrows with German politicians, including Thomas Oppermann, the parliamentary caucus leader of the Social Democrats.

“Donald Trump is making clear with his tweet that he considers Germany a political opponent,” Oppermann said. “This is a new situation — we lived for decades in the certainty that we could rely on each other as partners in an alliance, and this certainty no longer exists today.”

Trump’s tweet on Tuesday also raises eyebrows in the United States for another reason. It undercuts the White House’s messaging from last Friday, which sought to downplay the seriousness of his critical remarks on trade and his suggestion that the country was selling too many cars to the United States.

“[Trump] said they’re very bad on trade, but he doesn’t have a problem with Germany,” White House economic adviser Gary Cohn said last week. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer later followed up by saying the president had “tremendous respect” for Germany and that Trump “was not aggressive on [the] German trade surplus.”