Germany sees ‘most difficult part’ in EU-US trade talks ahead

US President Donald Trump may threaten tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported autos and auto parts, a major export of European economies, by designating the imports a national security threat. (AFP)
Updated 19 February 2019
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Germany sees ‘most difficult part’ in EU-US trade talks ahead

  • ‘For some weeks and months now, we’re observing with concern that the US is tightening its trade policies, that tensions are increasing’
  • ‘The impact can already be seen in the world economy, global growth has slowed’

BERLIN: The most difficult part in trade negotiations between Europe and the United States is starting now and talks should focus on reducing tariffs on industrial goods to increase the chances of a deal, German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said on Tuesday.
A confidential US Commerce Department report sent to President Donald Trump over the weekend is widely expected to clear the way for him to threaten tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported autos and auto parts by designating the imports a national security threat.
“For some weeks and months now, we’re observing with concern that the US is tightening its trade policies, that tensions are increasing,” Altmaier told Deutschlandfunk radio.
“The impact can already be seen in the world economy, global growth has slowed,” Altmaier said.
Asked about the risk of higher US car tariffs, Altmaier said he did not buy the argument that imported cars would threaten the national security of the United States.
Altmaier, a confidant of Chancellor Angela Merkel, said that reducing tariffs on cars and other manufactured goods should be the main focus of the ongoing trade talks.
“We are not yet where we want to be. We might have made one-third of the way and the most difficult part will be now,” Altmaier said.
Altmaier added that he was in favor of reducing import tariffs for cars to the same level in the US and Europe, “ideally to zero percent.”
The trade talks will also be high on the agenda during a meeting of Altmaier with his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire in Berlin later on Tuesday.
Both ministers are expected to narrow differences on how far the negotiation mandate of the European Commission in the talks with the US should go and which areas should be excluded.
France is reluctant to open up its agriculture sector to US imports and Altmaier said he was fine with excluding the issue in the trade talks.
“Agriculture is a very sensitive topic, so we don’t want to talk about this in the current situation,” Altmaier said.
Altmaier and Le Maire are expected to hold a news conference after the talks.
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told a German newspaper that Trump had promised him he would not impose additional import tariffs on European cars for the time being.
If Trump imposed tariffs on European cars, however, the EU would react immediately and not feel obliged to stick to its promise to buy more soybeans and liquefied gas from the United States, Juncker added.


Lufthansa announces overhaul of budget carrier Eurowings

Updated 24 June 2019
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Lufthansa announces overhaul of budget carrier Eurowings

  • Lufthansa cited falling revenues at Eurowings as a major reason for its warning on full-year profits on June 16
  • Eurowings’ long-haul business would be managed by Lufthansa in the future

BERLIN: Lufthansa on Monday announced a turnaround plan for Eurowings in which the budget carrier will focus on short-haul flights and seek a 15 percent cut in costs by 2022 in the hope of returning to profit.
The German airline cited falling revenues at Eurowings as a major reason for its warning on full-year profits on June 16. Eurowings’ revenue was also forecast to fall sharply in the second quarter.
Lufthansa said its Eurowings fleet would be standardized on the Airbus A320 family and it would seek to boost productivity at Eurowings by limiting itself in Germany to one air operator’s certificate.
Brussels Airlines — the Belgian national flag carrier which Lufthansa took control of in 2016 — would not be integrated into Eurowings, Lufthansa said. A turnaround plan for Brussels Airlines will be announced in the third quarter.
Lufthansa also said it would start pegging its dividend payout ratio to net profit in the future to give the group more flexibility. It would pay out a regular dividend of 20 percent-40 percent of net profit, adjusted for one-off gains and losses.
Lufthansa said Eurowings’ long-haul business would be managed by Lufthansa in the future.
Carsten Spohr, Chief Executive Officer of Lufthansa, said Monday’s announcements sent “a clear signal that this company cares about its shareholders and tries to create value for them.”
Lufthansa said its Network Airlines — made up of Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian Airlines — would aim to use innovations in sales and distribution to make a contribution to increasing unit revenues by 3 percent by 2022.
Network Airlines will aim to reduce unit costs continuously by 1 to 2 percent annually, the airline said.