German minister: Trump's protectionism a threat to Germany's economy

Germany's minister for economic affairs has voiced "alarm" over some of the actions US President Donald Trump has taken since entering office. She warned that his protectionist policies endanger the German economy.

In an interview with the daily mass-market "Bild" newspaper, new German Minister for Economic Affairs Brigitte Zypries said she found the US administration's aggressive global stance troubling.

"What we've been experiencing for last 10 days is both alarming and irritating," Zypries told the paper. "It's moving in completely the wrong direction."

Germany is Europe's largest economy and the world's leading export nation. Only about 10 percent of exports from German companies go to the United States, while Europe accounts for 60 percent. Still, Zypries said a closed off US market would be "bad for the German economy and therefore also for jobs."

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

A quick way to fulfill campaign promises

Less than a month into his presidency, Donald Trump has issued 17 executive actions. While this number in itself is not remarkable - by the same time, Barack Obama had signed roughly the same number of executive orders - the content of Trump's decrees is. It seems the new president wants to implement many of his campaign promises - including the controversial ones - as quickly as possible.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Executive orders and presidential memoranda

Executive actions (EA) allow the US president to give government agencies orders that do not need Congressional approval, circumventing the law-making process and speeding up the implementation process. Executive orders are a more wide-reaching form of EA that often deal with larger organizational directives, while presidential memoranda order specific agencies to do something.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Weakening Obamacare

Executive Order: The first executive order that Trump signed was a missive on deferring, waving or delaying parts of the Affordable Care Act to "minimize regulatory burdens." While Trump alone can not repeal the healthcare law instated under President Obama, he can undermine the implementation of "Obamacare" while the Republican majority in Congress prepares to repeal the law.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Pulling federal funding for abortion advice

Presidential Memorandum: Trump re-instated a policy that bars US federal funding for non-governmental organizations that provide abortion counseling and advocate for abortion rights. This directive was initially instated by Republican president Ronald Reagan, rescinded by Democrat Bill Clinton, re-instated by Republican George W. Bush and again rescinded by Democrat Barack Obama.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Deportation of undocumented immigrants

Executive Order: Trump ordered immigration agents to vastly expand the scope of deportations. He wants federal grants to be pulled from sanctuary cities (where undocumented migrants are not prosecuted) and immigrants suspected of a crime to be detained, even if they were not charged. He plans to hire 10,000 new immigration agents and publish a report on crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Building the Wall

Executive Order: In an executive order signed on January 25, President Trump called for "the immediate construction of a physical wall" in order to secure the US-Mexico border. He also referred to undocumented immigrants as "removable aliens," saying that the executive branch should "end the abuse of parole and asylum provisions currently used to prevent the lawful removal of removable aliens."

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Travel ban and halting refugee intake

Executive Order: Trump signed this controversial order on January 27. It banned people from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the US for three months, stopped the Syrian refugee program indefinitely and suspended refugee admissions for 120 days. Protests against the order erupted across the country and even Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham criticized the policy.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

The United States pulls out of TPP

Memorandum: It was no surprise that Donald Trump abandoned the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). During his campaign, he frequently criticized the TPP and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), saying that other countries benefited from these trade agreements at the expense of the US. Press secretary Sean Spicer said Trump prefered deals with individual countries.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Oil pipelines, if they're made from US steel

Three different memoranda: One on constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline, another on continuing construction of the Keystone pipeline, and a third order on using American materials to build all pipelines - were issued on Trump's fourth day in office. Barack Obama had denied permits to both pipelines after massive protests from environmentalists, who feared the potential impact of spills.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Expand the military, freeze other government hiring

Memoranda: Trump quickly lived up to his campaign promise to invest in a bigger military, signing a memorandum for more troops, warships and a modernized nuclear arsenal a week into his presidency. Four days earlier, he ordered a freeze on the hiring of new civilian employees in federal agencies for up to 90 days, so that his administration could develop a long-term plan to shrink the workforce.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Lobbying, National Security Council and IS

Executive order: Every new government appointee will sign an ethics pledge that bans them from working as a lobbyist for five years after leaving their post and from ever lobbying the US government for other countries. On the same day, he issued two further memoranda ordering the Department of Defense to formulate a plan to defeat IS within 30 days and to reorganize the National Security Council.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Steve Bannon in the National Security Council

Memorandum: Trump ordered an overhaul of the National Security Council (NSC) to elevate the role of Stephen Bannon. He removed several senior members from the foreign policy decision-making panel while Trump's chief strategist, known for his far-right views, will serve on the committee usually staffed with generals. This breaks with the long-held norm of not appointing political actors to the NSC.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Deregulate, deregulate, deregulate

Executive Orders and Memorandum: Trump wants federal agencies to eliminate at least two prior regulations for every new regulation. He ordered a freeze on new and pending federal regulations, until a Trump-appointed department head could revise them. He also asked for the approval of "high priority infrastructure projects" to be sped up.

Fast work: Donald Trump's executive actions so far

Presidential precedent

President Barack Obama issued a total of 277 executive orders - an average of roughly three per month, slightly fewer than his predecessor George W. Bush at 291. However, Obama issued 644 presidential memoranda during his time in office to get around blocks in Congress - a precedent Trump appears to be following.

She said the German government needed to "talk, talk, talk" because "the kind of isolation, which Donald Trump is clearly seeking, is detrimental to everyone, including the American economy."

She added that Trump's protectionist economic plan was "incompatible with the principles of the World Trade Organization" and would "also hit people in the US negatively because the US economy depends on high-quality sub-contracting." 

Trump puts "America first"

Last week, Trump signed a controversial executive order temporarily banning people from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. He also pledged to build a wall on the US border with Mexico and has threatened to impose heavy border taxes on manufactured goods from outside the country, especially goods from Mexico.

"In a globally networked economy, there can be no discrimination based on religion or origin," Zypries said. "We are on the side of the workers and expect them to be able to pursue their activities unhindered. We can only hope that the US government will quickly recognize this mistake and correct it."

Zypries' concerns were echoed by Joe Kaeser, the head of German engineering giant Siemens. He told a press conference in Munich on Wednesday he was worried about the "tone" of the latest actions from the US, which do not "fit our perception of this country."

"America became great thanks to immigrants," he said.

Earlier in the week, Trump advisor on trade Peter Navarro accused Germany of using a "grossly undervalued" euro to "exploit" the US and its EU partners.

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Chancellor Angela Merkel responded to the comments, pointing out that both the euro and monetary policy were a matter for the European Central Bank. Speaking during a visit to Sweden on Tuesday, Merkel said "we try to succeed in world trade with competitive products, in fair competition with everyone else."

nm/sms (Reuters, dpa)