The three automakers have no official role in the overall trade talks between U.S. and EU trade officials, and stressed that at the end of their meetings. The companies are trying to avoid becoming entangled in the talks but they accepted the invitation extended by a Trump administration eager to jump-start progress on its highest priorities.
“We weren’t here as a trade delegation,” Zetsche said.
“We said in general terms that our planned additional investments here that are not commercially sensible per se of course would have to be part of a larger understanding and for that the conditions under which we operate cannot change. That was very well understood,” Zetsche said.
The White House is looking to whittle down a $30 billion automotive trade deficit with Germany with increased production in the U.S., Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said ahead of a meeting with automakers in Washington Tuesday. It remains the biggest single chunk of an overall $65 billion trade deficit with the EU.
All three automakers met separately with Trump’s key lieutenants on trade, including Ross, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and economic adviser Larry Kudlow, before a joint meeting that followed. They then met with Trump in the Oval Office.
“The president shared his vision of all automakers producing in the United States and creating a more friendly business environment,” Lindsay Walters, a White House spokeswoman, said.
Daimler, the maker of Mercedes-Benz luxury cars produces vehicles in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, shipping many of its SUVs made there to China. Daimler employs some 3,700 workers at the U.S. site, which can churn out more than 280,000 vehicles per year, including GLE and GLS SUVs for global markets and C-class sedans for North America.
Bloomberg and Automotive News staff contributed to this report.