Ahead of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's meeting with US President Donald Trump, on Tuesday German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said escalating threats would not resolve a trade dispute with the United States.
"We won't let ourselves be threatened and just cave in because, if we do that once, I fear that we will have to deal with such behavior very often in the future, and we won't accept that," Maas told the German public broadcaster ARD.
On Monday, the European Commission reported that Juncker will not arrive in Washington with a specific trade offer to stop Trump from imposing higher tariffs on EU cars.
Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas said Wednesday's talks between Juncker and Trump, at the White House, would seek to "de-dramatize any potential tensions around trade."
Asked whether Juncker would have a specific measure that could prevent the new tariffs, Schinas added: "There are no offers. This is a discussion, it is a dialogue and it is an opportunity to talk and to stay engaged in dialogue."
The US and the European Union are on the brink of a full-blown trade war after Trump raised import duties on steel and aluminum products and threatened to levy higher duties against Europe's auto industry.
Trump has repeatedly complained about the EU, pointing to the higher duties it applies on car imports and describing the bloc as a "foe" in trade.
Speculation about a specific EU trade measure followed comments from Trump's top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, who said he expected the EU to make a "significant" trade offer.
US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said at the G20 talks in Argentina last weekend that Washington would demand a wide-ranging trade deal with Europe in order to stand back on its tariff threat.
Juncker's commission handles trade matters for the 28 EU states, and he goes to the White House with the firm backing of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whose country Trump has singled out for punishing US trade.
Merkel has warned that Trump's auto tariffs would not just violate the rules of the World Trade Organization, but could also "endanger the prosperity of many people around the world."
In response to Trump's metal tariffs, on June 22 the EU imposed a raft of retaliatory tariffs that targeted the most emblematic of US exports, from blue jeans to Harley-Davidson motorbikes and whiskey, and is now drawing up a list of more products that could be hit with punitive duties.
While Trump continues to play up protectionist measures, the EU last week signed its biggest-ever trade deal with Japan, having recently secured similar deals with US neighbors Canada and Mexico.
mm/sri (AFP, dpa, Reuters)