U.S. President Donald Trump has reportedly reignited tensions with his EU counterparts in the latest leg of his international tour after calling the Germans “very bad” for their trade surplus with the U.S.
The president vowed to block German car exports to the U.S. during a meeting with top EU leaders on Thursday, according to reports from German news magazine Der Spiegel.
“The Germans are bad, very bad,” President Trump said, according to participants in the room who spoke to Der Spiegel.
“See the millions of cars they sell in the U.S., terrible. We will stop this.”
The comments were said to have been made in a meeting with the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the European Council President Donald Tusk who both showed support for Germany.
The White House was not available for comment when contacted by CNBC. However, Juncker dismissed the claims on Friday, saying that the German reports were exaggerated.
“He did not say that the Germans were behaving badly,” Juncker told reporters in Sicily ahead of G-7 talks.
“He was not aggressive at all and anyway we have taken the defense of the Germans,” he continued.
“I was making clear that the U.S. 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.”
Trump has long voiced his frustrations with Germany’s trade surplus with the U.S., insisting that German imports have damaged the U.S. manufacturing industry. In January, he threatened to slap a 35 percent tax on German auto imports.
“If you want to build cars in the world, then I wish you all the best. You can build cars for the United States, but for every car that comes to the USA, you will pay 35 percent tax,” he said in an interview with German newspaper Bild.
He also attempted to negotiate a bilateral trade deal with Germany when he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in March. However, she insisted that all deals with EU member countries must be made multilaterally.
Excluding the EU, Germany is the third largest exporter in the world, after China and the U.S. In 2016, its trade surplus was 252 billion euros ($282.7 billion).
President Trump’s latest comments come as part of wider discussions with the EU and other world leaders on trade, defense and the environment.
He scolded NATO leaders on Thursday, telling them that they must to more to meet their contribution targets.
On Friday, he continues his international tour, meeting in Sicily with G7 leaders, where international trade will be at the forefront of the agenda.
– CNBC’s Silvia Amaro contributed to this report.