Following the US president’s decision to impose heavy import duties on steel and aluminum from countries outside NAFTA, Europe should act with determination, but also in careful consideration of the issues. Emotions will not get us anywhere – we need an objective debate. The yardstick is provided by the principles of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which are intended to ensure free and fair trade. Escalation is not going to help anybody. A trade war between the US and Europe must be avoided at all costs. In this kind of trade war there are no winners on any side.
The advantages of free trade are obvious. The economic integration of the two economic areas, particularly in the automotive field, has progressed steadily over recent decades. While we have strategically expanded our production in the US for several years, exports from Germany have fallen. Last year the German vehicle-makers exported 494,000 cars to America. That was down by one quarter compared with 2013. The value of exports comes to 19.4 billion euros. At the same time we have increased our production at US facilities by 180,000 units since 2013 – to 804,000 vehicles.
The German manufacturers employ 36,500 people in the US, which is 5,700 more than in 2013. To add to this, there are around 80,000 employees at German suppliers. This high level of employment is supported by the fact that the suppliers’ customers include not only the German manufacturers, but also other vehicle-makers who produce either in the US or in NAFTA.
The German OEMs make a considerable contribution to the automotive trade balance of the US. More than half of all cars that our manufacturers build in the US are exported to countries outside NAFTA – to Europe, Asia or the rest of the world. That amounts to around 430,000 vehicles. This means that our share of all US exports (of light vehicles) is around one quarter, which is three times as high as our share of the US market.
The European Commission should do everything it can to ensure that transatlantic economic integration can be continued. The basic idea of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which the VDA had always supported, should be taken up again. In a new transatlantic agreement the existing barriers to market access could be eliminated in a spirit of partnership.