Donald Trump has attacked Germans for being “bad, very bad” and vowed to limit US car imports from the country.
At a meeting with European Union leaders in Brussels on Thursday Mr Trump reportedly said: “Look at the millions of cars they sell in the US. Terrible. We will stop this,” German news magazine Der Spiegel reported, citing people who attended the talks.
“If you go down Fifth Avenue everyone has a Mercedes Benz in front of his house,” he told Germany’s Bild newspaper in January.
"I would tell BMW that if you are building a factory in Mexico and plan to sell cars to the USA, without a 35 per cent tax, then you can forget that," Mr Trump said.
“How many Chevrolets do you see in Germany? Not very many, maybe none at all … it’s a one-way street.”
BMW chief executive Harald Krueger, later pointed out that his company’s biggest plant worldwide is in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Shares in German car manufacturers Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW fell slightly in Frankfurt trading on Friday.
White House economic advisor Gary Cohn defended the President's remarks.
“He said they're very bad on trade but he doesn't have a problem with Germany. He said his dad is from Germany. He said 'I don't have a problem with Germany, I have a problem with German trade,” Mr Cohn said on Friday.
Mr Trump's spokesman Sean Spicer said Trump had "tremendous respect" for Germany and was only commenting on the country's trade policies.
European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, who was at the meeting, dismissed the claims about Mr Trump's remarks, which he said had been exaggerated.
German media translated "bad" as "boese" which can also mean evil, which made the comments sound more serious when translated back into English.
"The record has to be set straight," Mr Juncker told reporters in Sicily ahead of the G7 talks..
"He did not say that the Germans were behaving badly.
"He was not aggressive at all and anyway we have taken the defence of the Germans," he continued.
"I was making clear that the US cannot compare their trade situation with individual member states of the European Union. They have to compare their performances with the global performances of the European Union and I made it clear that the commission is charged with trade issues and not the member states."
The closed-door meeting was part of broader talks among world leaders over defence, trade and the environment.
On Thursday, Mr Trump appeared to shove Montenegro's Prime Minister, Dusko Markovic, out of the way in a bid to get to the front of a group of Nato leaders - a moment which was captured on film.
He also attacked Nato members for failing to meet the military alliance's target to spend 2 per cent of GDP on defence.
In the wake of the "barbaric" Manchester bombing, Mr Trump said two per cent was a "bare minimum" and that this should be increased to allow Nato to "stop terrorism in its tracks".
Additional reporting by Bloomberg
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