Trump plans meeting with German car CEOs next week

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UPDATED: 18.11.2018 16:58 ET – adds official comment

BERLIN – Top drivers of German car manufacturers Volkswagen, BMW and Daimler are finalizing plans for a White House meeting on trade policy next week, German and American officials said Thursday.

Car manufacturers, who asked not to be named, said the meeting was provisionally scheduled for Tuesday, and would include VW CEO Herbert Diess, Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche and BMW production leader Oliver Zipse.

President Donald Trump has been very critical of German car manufacturers and what he sees as an unfair trade imbalance on cars.

He threatened for months to impose tariffs on vehicles assembled in the EU, a step that could boost the business model of the industry for the sale of cars in the United States.

He has, however, refrained from taking such a measure, while Washington and Brussels are holding talks to remove other trade barriers.

The CEOs are planning to make it clear that they can not negotiate on behalf of the EU, said the people who carried out this issue last week.

The new VW CEO in North and South America told Wednesday that the company decided where a new North American plant would be located to build electric cars for the American market.

Earlier on Thursday, Trump twittered that "auto companies are entering the United States, including BMW, which have just announced a major new plant." The U.S.A. is booming. "

Other sources familiar with the case said that Richard Grenell, the American ambassador in Germany, had set up the meeting, but the exact date was still being negotiated. Top car bosses were also scheduled to appear at an automotive summit in the North German city of Wolfsburg, where VW is based, on Tuesday.

Christina Higgins, spokesperson for the US embassy in Berlin, said that the date of December 4 was proposed by German car manufacturers, but was not yet completed. "It is only a suggestion on this point," she said.

The German Handelsblatt newspaper, which first reported that the meeting would take place Tuesday, said Grenell told car manufacturers that US trade representative Robert Lighthizer and trade secretary Wilbur Ross would be attending the meeting.

It was not immediately clear whether Grenell would participate.

The United States is currently imposing import tariffs on cars assembled in the EU of 2.5 percent, compared with 10 percent rates for US-built cars that enter the European trade bloc.