BERLIN, July 26 (Reuters) - Plans under consideration in the U.S. Congress to impose tougher sanctions against Russia would hurt German companies, endanger Germany’s energy security and appear to be designed to favour American firms, a German industry association said on Wednesday.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday for the plans and to force President Donald Trump to obtain lawmakers’ permission before easing any sanctions on Moscow. They must still be approved by the Senate and signed into law by Trump.
The warning issued by the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce mirrors wider European concerns over potential fall-out from the U.S. moves to punish alleged Russian interference in last year’s presidential election.
The U.S. proposals could hurt German efforts to make its energy supply more reliable by preventing German companies from working with Russia on pipeline projects, said Volker Treier, the head of the Chamber’s international committee.
“One is left with the sense that the United States is looking to its own economic interests,” in particular with respect to U.S. oil and gas companies, he said.
Separately, a German Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Wednesday it would be unacceptable for the United States to use possible sanctions against Russia as a tool of industrial policy and called for close coordination of proposed sanctions between the European Union and Washington.
Despite tensions with Moscow over its backing for separatists in Ukraine, most of central Europe relies on Russian gas to power its economy, delivered via a laticework of pipelines that require constant maintenance and expansion.
Treier called on the European Commission, the EU’s executive, to seek clarification from the United States over the the eventual scope of the sanctions.
Earlier on Wednesday Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said the EU was ready to act “within a matter of days” if the proposed new U.S. sanctions undermined the bloc’s energy security.
It is unclear how quickly the U.S. bill will make its way to the White House for Trump to sign into law or veto. Trump faces allegations that he benefited from alleged meddling by Moscow in the 2016 election. (Reporting by Gernot Heller; Writing by Thomas Escritt; Editing by Gareth Jones)
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