German auto industry leaders are making the case to the Trump administration that a trade feud with the U.S. will cause irreparable damage to global business.
The chief executive officers of Volkswagen Group, Daimler and BMW Group met Wednesday with the U.S ambassador to Germany to discuss looming U.S. duties on car imports from the European Union, according to people familiar with the matter.
The meeting, reported earlier by German business newspaper Handelsblatt, was aimed at forming a direct link to the administration, said the people, who asked not to be named as the talks were private.
The head of parts supplier Continental was also in attendance, one of the people said.
The automaker executives' initiative coincides with new proposals reportedly being considered by EU officials to stave off a worsening global trade war.
President Donald Trump last month proposed a 20 percent levy on imported EU autos, and has ordered a probe into whether imports of cars and car parts damage national security.
He's also engaged in a tit-for-tat escalation with China, which will result in a 40 percent tariff on U.S.-made cars -- many of them German brands -- shipped into the Asian country.
The proposal being weighed by EU officials would cut tariffs between the world's largest car-exporting nations -- including the U.S., South Korea and Japan, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.
Separately, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier is traveling to Paris next week to help coordinate a new EU initiative for talks with the U.S. on steel tariffs.
Automakers have responded en masse to the proposed U.S. tariffs on foreign cars, saying they would harm the U.S. auto industry along with players abroad.
The EU isn't allowed under global rules to reduce its 10 percent tariff on American cars unless the bloc either does so for World Trade Organization members as a whole or reaches a bilateral accord with the U.S. that covers "substantially all" two-way trade.
European trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom said last week there is "no way" EU governments would agree to scrap the bloc's car-import duty for all WTO members, leaving the option of going for a broader commercial deal with the U.S.
The EU unsuccessfully sought a permanent waiver from Trump's metals tariffs imposed in March. As part of those demands, the EU said it was willing to start negotiations with the U.S. on a relatively narrow trade deal focused on eliminating tariffs on industrial goods including cars. The offer went nowhere, according to European officials.
"This is what we offered the American administration, under the condition of course that they did not impose those steel and aluminum tariffs," Malmstrom told reporters in Brussels on June 26. "They rejected that offer."