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US ambassador vows 'no trade war' with EU

May 12, 2018

The new US ambassador to Germany defended planned US tariffs, but said the ball is in Brussels' court. Grenell already made headlines for his Tweet calling on German companies to "immediately" wind down business in Iran.

Ambassador Richard Allen Grenell
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/B.v. Jutrczenka

Richard Grenell, the new US ambassador in Berlin, said he doesn't see any danger of a trade war breaking out between the US and the European Union, in an interview with the Funke newspaper group published on Saturday.

Ties between the US and the EU have become particularly strained over pending tariffs as well as US President Donald Trump's decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal.

Read moreGermany seeks Russian support after Donald Trump's Iran decision

What the US ambassador said

  • "There will be no trade war. This perception is wrong. We are talking with our friends to solve a problem."
  • Washington is waiting to hear EU proposals before deciding whether to follow a June 1 deadline to impose tariffs.
  • Germany is "doing a phenomenal job on trade" and Trump only wants "a level playing field."
  • On Iran, he defended Trump's decision to exit the nuclear deal, saying Washington expects Europe "to help us bring Iran back to the negotiating table."

New US sanctions on Iran could hit Europe

Toeing the hardline: In the interview, Grenell has made it clear that he will continue to emphasize the Trump administration's more hardline foreign policy objectives in his new role in Berlin.

Off to a rocky start: The US ambassador didn't make many friends in Berlin with his diplomatic approach during the first few days on the job. On Tuesday, Grenell tweeted a warning to German businesses in Iran, saying they should "wind down operations immediately."

Andrea Nahles, the head of the Social Democrats, later criticized Grenell's diplomacy style: "It's not up to me to teach the US ambassador how to be diplomatic, but he does seem to need a bit of tutoring."

Where the tariffs stand: The Trump administration imposed tariffs on aluminum and steel in March, but issued temporary exemptions to certain countries and the EU. The extensions are due to expire on June 1 unless a deal is reached, but Brussels said it wants to secure an exemption before agreeing on concessions. In a tit-for-tat move, the EU has said it will impose its own tariffs on US exports, including bourbon, motorcycles, peanut butter and makeup.

Iran nuclear deal: On Tuesday, Trump announced that the US is leaving an international nuclear deal with Iran and that Washington would reimpose harsh sanctions on the regime. The decision has put Europe in a difficult position as businesses seek to avoid US sanctions penalties and leaders hurry to hold the nuclear accord together.

Who is Richard Grenell: Richard "Ric" Grenell is a 51-year-old former Bush administration diplomatic aide and frequent commentator on the conservative news broadcaster Fox News. Trump nominated him to be the next US ambassador to Germany in September last year. He was sworn in to his new post on May 4.

rs/aw   (dpa, Reuters)

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