(Adds details of planned meeting, statement from German
By Georgina Prodhan
FRANKFURT, March 13 Bosses of German companies
including engineering group Siemens and carmaker BMW
will travel with Chancellor Angela Merkel to meet U.S.
President Donald Trump this week, sources familiar with the
matter told Reuters.
Faced with Trump's "America First" policy and threats to
impose tariffs on imported goods, the captains of industry will
stress how many U.S. jobs are tied to "Deutschland AG".
Trains-to-turbines group Siemens employs more than 50,000
people in the United States, its single biggest market, where it
makes 21 percent of its total revenue, while BMW's South
Carolina plant is its largest factory anywhere in the world.
Trump will meet Merkel, Europe's longest-serving leader, for
the first time on Tuesday in Washington.
Merkel told business leaders in Munich on Monday that free
trade was important for both countries, while a German
government spokesman confirmed at a press conference that the
two leaders would also meet with German business executives.
German chancellors have a long tradition of taking groups of
business leaders along with them on trips to important
countries. The other business leader accompanying Merkel will be
the chief executive of ball-bearings maker Schaeffler
The three chief executives will cross the Atlantic for a
single scheduled meeting of less than an hour with Trump. They
will brief the president on the German practice of training
workers on the job while also sending them to classes at a
vocational school to obtain formal qualifications.
Such training is traditionally offered by large German
companies both at home and in their foreign operations, and is
particularly prized in emerging economies, where it helps German
corporations win business.
Sources of tension between Berlin and the new U.S.
administration include an accusation by a senior Trump adviser
that Germany profits unfairly from a weak euro, and Trump's
threat to impose 35 percent tariffs on imported vehicles.
The United States is Germany's biggest trading partner,
buying German goods and services worth 107 billion euros ($114
billion) last year while exporting just 58 billion euros' worth
"The accusations of President Donald Trump and his advisers
are plucked out of thin air," the president of Germany's VDMA
engineering industry association, Carl Martin Welcker, said in a
statement on Monday.
He said 81,000 people were employed in German-owned
engineering firms in the United States with almost 30 billion
euros in total revenue, while German export successes were
linked to the high quality of goods, not foreign-exchange
As part of a bid to bring jobs to America, Trump has urged
carmakers to build more cars in the United States and
discouraged them from investing in Mexico, where German and
other carmakers have big plants.
Trump's order banning citizens of some majority-Muslim
countries from entering the United States, and a threat to tear
up the NAFTA free trade deal between the United States, Mexico
and Canada, have also unnerved business leaders.
Siemens chief executive Joe Kaeser expressed concern last
month about developments in the United States since Trump took
office, saying: "The new American president has a style that's
different from what we're accustomed to. It worries us, what we
BMW's Chief Executive Harald Krueger said last week that
introducing protectionist measures and tariffs would not be good
for the United States.
The carmaker is expanding its plant in Spartanburg, South
Carolina, to have a capacity of 450,000 vehicles, with 70
percent for export.
It is also building a new plant in Mexico, where it plans to
invest $2.2 billion by 2019. Mexico's lower labour costs and
unique free trade position mean it now accounts for a fifth of
all vehicle production in North America.
"America profits from free trade. We are supporters of free
trade and not of protectionism," Krueger told reporters at the
Geneva auto show.
($1 = 0.9373 euros)
(Additional reporting by Irene Preisinger in Munich, Erik
Kirschbaum, Andreas Cremer and Andreas Rinke in Berlin, and
Edward Taylor in Frankfurt; Editing by Catherine Evans and Susan