German car CEOs invited for White House talks

Jenny Leonard and Jennifer Jacobs
Bloomberg News

The Trump administration has invited the CEOs of three German automakers for talks at the White House as European and U.S. government officials try to negotiate a new trade agreement, according to people familiar with the matter.

BMW CEO Harald Kruger is one of three German automaker chiefs CEOs invited to the White House for talks.

President Donald Trump is tentatively planning to meet with the chief executives of BMW AG, Daimler AG and Volkswagen AG after the Nov. 22 Thanksgiving holiday, one of the people said on condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. The executives are consulting with Berlin before their meeting with Trump administration officials, according to the people.

The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

For Trump the talks could be a way to push the European Union toward a broader trade deal. Discussions between Washington and Brussels have bogged down recently as the U.S. threatens tariffs on auto imports and the EU warns of imposing a digital services tax that could hit technology companies from Apple Inc. to Inc.

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom was in Washington last week to discuss a limited free-trade agreement with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. Those talks are mainly focused on regulatory cooperation and do not deal with tariffs on autos.

Trump decided last week to hold off on imposing auto tariffs but U.S. officials made clear to their European counterparts that the truce might not hold much longer if they fail to deliver in the trade talks with the White House, two of the people said.

Germany’s trade surplus with the U.S. has been a target of Trump’s complaints about global economic imbalances. Volkswagen makes the Passat Sedan and Atlas SUV in Tennessee, BMW builds its X line of SUVs in South Carolina, and Daimler’s Mercedes-Benz produces the C-Class Sedan and GLS and GLE SUVs in Alabama.