Berlin has confirmed that the U.S. last week issued a fresh threat to slap tariffs on European cars if Germany, France and the U.K. didn’t trigger a dispute-resolution mechanism under the Iran nuclear accord.
But the German government insists the renewed pressure had no influence on Tuesday’s decision by the three European countries to launch the mediation mechanism, which is aimed at forcing Iran to return to compliance with limits placed on its nuclear program.
A foreign ministry official told the Bundestag’s foreign affairs committee in a confidential briefing on Friday that Washington had made the auto tariff threat on January 8, but that the European countries had already decided to launch the dispute resolution a day earlier, according to three people present at the briefing.
The threat was raised by a U.S. State Department official during a video call with counterparts from Berlin, Paris and London, the foreign ministry official told lawmakers. News of the briefing was first reported by German media Spiegel.
“There was no American influence on the decision [to trigger the dispute resolution mechanism],” a spokesperson for the foreign ministry said, without commenting on the confidential briefing to lawmakers.
The Washington Post on Wednesday reported the administration of President Donald Trump threatened to impose a 25 percent car tariff to force the three European countries to take action against Iran, a move the involved countries refused to confirm.
While Trump has over the past two years repeatedly threatened to slap a 25 percent tariff on European cars, that was until now limited to pressuring on economic issues such as the European trade in goods surplus with the United States, rather than foreign or security policy.
“The whole story shows what a dramatic state the transatlantic relationship is in,” said Bijan Djir-Sarai, the liberal Free Democratic Party’s spokesperson for foreign affairs. “The way it is acted and communicated here is not how allies should treat each other.”