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White House to meet Tuesday with German auto executives - sources

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By Reuters
White House to meet Tuesday with German auto executives - sources
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow speaks to reporters at the White House in Washington, U.S., October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque   -   Copyright  KEVIN LAMARQUE(Reuters)

WASHINGTON/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – The chief executives of Volkswagen AG <VOWG_p.DE> and Daimler AG <DAIGn.DE> are set to meet senior Trump administration officials on Tuesday, three people briefed on the matter said, as the White House considers slapping tariffs on European-made cars.

Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer are among those preparing to attend the White House meeting, the sources said. A senior BMW AG <BMWG.DE> executive is also expected to attend.

U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to impose stiff tariffs on cars assembled in the European Union as part of his “America First” trade policy. On Sunday, Trump said China had agreed to “reduce and remove” tariffs on vehicles exported from the United States. [nL4N1Y81ZD]

Although the European Commission handles trade negotiations on behalf of the common trading bloc, the Trump administration has summoned auto bosses as part of a campaign to “rebalance” global trade flows.

BMW Chief Financial Officer Nicolas Peter will attend the meeting in Washington, the German auto maker said on Monday. Daimler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche will be in attendance as well, the company said. VW CEO Herbert Diess is also planning to attend, a person briefed on the matter said.

A U.S. government official briefed on the matter said on Monday the administration is not expected to move forward with new tariffs on imported vehicles immediately.

The U.S. Commerce Department has circulated draft recommendations to the White House on its investigation into whether to impose tariffs of up to 25 percent on imported cars and parts on national security grounds, Reuters reported in November.

The official told Reuters that no final report on the investigation is expected for at least a couple of weeks.

The German car bosses will underline the European Commission’s plea to cut tariffs on cars and to explain the importance that German industry plays as a net exporter of vehicles from the United States, a person familiar with the discussions told Reuters on Monday.

Last week, BMW said it was considering building a second manufacturing plant in the United States that could produce engines and transmissions, a possibility that brought praise from Trump.

Trump agreed in July not to impose higher duties on EU cars while the two sides sought to improve ties in a number of fields, from regulatory cooperation to energy and a deal to remove tariffs on industrial goods.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that although the EU is formally responsible for negotiating trade on behalf of Germany, German car makers play an important role in global trade.

(Reporting by David Shepardson, Edward Taylor and Jan Schwartz; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Paul Simao)