Angela Merkel. Picture: REUTERS
Angela Merkel. Picture: REUTERS

Chancellor Angela Merkel took President Donald Trump to task before an audience of senior security officials in Munich, calling his administration’s suggestion that European autos are a threat to US national security a “shock.”

In a pointed defense of multilateral institutions ahead of a speech by US Vice President Mike Pence at the Munich Security Conference, the German leader called for global trade and co-operation. The biggest BMW plant is in South Carolina, she said, not in the carmaker’s homeland of Bavaria in southern Germany.

“Look, we’re proud of our cars,” Merkel said Saturday. “We’re allowed to be. And these cars are built in the United States of America.”

“If these cars, which are no less a threat than those built in Bavaria, are suddenly a national security threat to the US, then that’s a shock to us,” Merkel said, to loud applause.

Still, Germany would be hurt by sanctions, according to data released Friday by the IFO Institute’s Center for International Economics.

If the US imposed permanent tariffs of 25%, German car exports to the US could fall by almost 50%, or about €17bn, according to the German think-tank. Total car exports would fall by €18.4bn, or 7.7%.

Exports from other sectors and to other countries would compensate these effects slightly, so that the total loss of exports would amount to about €11.6bn, it said.