U.S. President Donald Trump voiced significant displeasure over Germany’s trade surplus on Thursday during a meeting with European Union leaders in Brussels. “The Germans are bad, very bad,” Trump said, according to meeting participants.
The remarks took place during a meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker, the European Commission president, and Donald Tusk, the head of the European Council, on Thursday.
Mr Trump spoke with the officials in Brussels a few hours before hemet with Mrs Merkel and other leaders at a Nato summit.
Mr Juncker on Friday sought to downplay the incident.
“It’s not true that the president took an aggressive approach when it came to the German trade surplus,” he said. “This is a translation issue. If someone is saying the Germans are bad that doesn’t mean this can be translated literally. He was not aggressive at all.”
It is not the first time President Trump has lashed out at Germany. He has accused Mrs Merkel’s government of deliberately running a trade surplus, and threatened to impose punitive tariffs on German imports to the US.
According to the Spiegel report, Mr Juncker disagreed with Mr Trump furing the meeting, which remained polite.
“Without taking the side of the Germans, I was making clear the US cannot compare their trade situation with individual EU member states,” Mr Juncker said.
“They have to compare their performance with the EU’s global performance and I made it clear that the Commission is in charge of dealing with trade issues, not the member states.”
A separate report in Süddeutsche Zeitung newspaper claimed the European side were shocked that Mr Trump and his entourage seemed unaware that EU trade policy is set collectively and individual EU members cannot agree separate trade deals.