VW, BMW, Daimler bosses willing to attend White House meeting, report says

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Trump has refrained from imposing car tariffs, while the US and the EU are starting negotiations to remove other trade barriers.

BERLIN – The heads of Volkswagen Group, BMW and Daimler are ready to attend a meeting in the White House with the Trump administration, but have not yet received a formal invitation, industry sources said.

The Handelsblatt announced on Wednesday the industry and diplomatic sources, because the meeting could possibly take place next week. The newspaper said it was not known whether US President Donald Trump would attend the meeting.

"It is clear that the meeting is planned and that the CEOs will be present," said a source in the industry.

A second branch source confirmed plans for a meeting in Washington, but said that details were being worked out and that the CEOs would make it clear that they would not be able to negotiate on behalf of the European Union.

Trump has been threatening to impose tariffs on all EU-assembled vehicles for months, a step that could improve the business model of the car sales industry in the US.

But he has refrained from imposing car tariffs, while the US and the EU are starting negotiations to remove other trade barriers.

Sources at the car manufacturers said no formal invitation had been received and no travel arrangements had been made. They said that the meeting could take place in the short term, possibly next week.

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The companies refused to comment publicly.

A spokesperson for the German government said that the chancellery was familiar with the idea of ​​such a meeting, but said that EU officials were responsible for all trade negotiations.

One source from the sector said that the invitation puts the companies in an uncomfortable position, given the EU's responsibility for trade matters. At the same time, they did not want to reject the possibility of entering into a dialogue.

"What's important is that we find a solution," said one source, adding that it was crucial for the German car industry to have access to the US market, the second largest behind China.

Bernd Westpahl, business spokesperson for the Social Democrats, junior partners in the German coalition government, said the invitation offered an opportunity to make progress. "It is a good – and perhaps the last – option to persuade the US President to withdraw from the punitive tariffs," he said.

Handelsblatt said that Richard Grenell, the American ambassador in Germany, had forwarded the invitation to the car companies. Grenell also met the German auto-bosses in July. A spokesperson for the embassy referred all questions to the White House. No immediate response was available given the holiday in the American Thanksgiving Day.

The US currently charges 2.5 percent of cars and 25 percent on light trucks, compared with 10 percent in the EU.