April 28, 2018 / 1:37 PM / in 5 months

German business leaders fear U.S. tariffs after Merkel-Trump talks

BERLIN (Reuters) - German business leaders voiced disappointment on Saturday over the outcome of talks between Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump, saying they feared he would impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel hold a joint news conference in the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

The United States imposed import tariffs of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum in March, but it provided a temporary exemption until May 1 for the European Union. Trump will decide then whether to make the exemption permanent.

“I regret the fact that the chancellor’s visit to Washington produced no palpable progress on the contentious issues between Germany and the United States,” said Dieter Kempf, president of the BDI industry body.

Merkel and Trump aired differences over trade and NATO on Friday at a White House meeting where they tried to put on a show of warmth and friendship.

During a joint news conference, Trump lamented his country’s trade deficit with the EU. Merkel said any decision on whether to exempt the bloc from tariffs permanently was now in the president’s hand.

“The threatened tariffs remain a major burden on transatlantic relations,” added Kempf.

French President Emmanuel Macron also pressed Trump on trade during a three-day state visit in the same week as Merkel’s quick trip. Neither leader appeared to have made progress convincing Trump to make the exemptions permanent.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the EU will be exempted from the unfair U.S. tariffs,” said Volker Treier of the DIHK industry and commerce chambers.

Reporting Tom Koerkemeier and Gernot Heller; Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Helen Popper

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