German Chancellor Angela Merkel (L), listens as President Donald Trump speaks at a joint press conference in the White House in Washington in March. While attending a NATO summit in Brussels, Trump said the German government is "very bad" on trade. Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo
May 26 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump said during a meeting with European Union leaders that Germany was "very bad" on trade and vowed to reduce the country's large trade surplus with the United States.
The remarks Thursday in Brussels were first reported by the German publication Der Spiegel.
"The Germans are bad, very bad" on trade, Trump said. "See the millions of cars they are selling to the U.S. Terrible. We will stop this."
German officials did not immediately respond to the remark, though it is not the first time Trump has criticized the key U.S. ally for what he views as predatory economic practices. When Merkel visited the White House in March, the topic of trade was at the forefront. Trump said Germany needed to institute "a fair policy."
In 2016, Germany had a trade surplus with the United States of $65 billion.
The United States has not been alone in expressing occasional criticism of Germany for its massive $270 billion annual trade surplus. Germany has defended its economic practices, noting its businesses shouldn't be punished for their ability to compete on the international stage.
Gary Cohn, one of Trump's top economic advisers, said the president's remarks were fair criticism and not indicative of a larger divide between the two NATO allies.
"He said they're very bad on trade but he doesn't have a problem with Germany," Cohn told reporters who traveled with Trump to a G7 summit in Sicily, Italy, on Friday.
Both Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are attending the G7 summit, though they are not scheduled to meet one-on-one at any point.