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President Donald Trump has reportedly reignited tensions with his EU counterparts after calling the Germans "very bad" for their trade surplus with the U.S.
The president vowed to block German car exports to the U.S. during a meeting with top EU leaders on Thursday, according to German news magazine Der Spiegel.
"The Germans are bad, very bad," Trump said, according to participants in the room who spoke to Der Spiegel.
"See the millions of cars they sell in the U.S., terrible. We will stop this."
The comments were said to have been made in a meeting with the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and the European Council President Donald Tusk, who both showed support for Germany.
The White House has since pushed back on these media reports and Juncker dismissed the claims on Friday, saying that the German reports were exaggerated.
"He did not say that the Germans were behaving badly," Juncker told reporters in Sicily ahead of G-7 talks.
"He was not aggressive at all and anyway we have taken the defense of the Germans," he continued.
"I was making clear that the U.S. cannot compare their trade situation with individual member states of the European Union. They have to compare their performances with the global performances of the European Union, and I made it clear that the commission is charged with trade issues and not the member states."
Trump has long voiced his frustrations with Germany's trade surplus with the U.S., insisting that German imports have damaged the U.S. manufacturing industry.
In January, he threatened to slap a 35 percent tax on German auto imports.
"If you want to build cars in the world, then I wish you all the best. You can build cars for the United States, but for every car that comes to the USA, you will pay 35 percent tax," he said in an interview with German newspaper Bild.
He also attempted to negotiate a bilateral trade deal with Germany when he met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in March. However, she insisted that all deals with EU member countries must be made multilaterally.
Excluding the EU, Germany is the third largest exporter in the world, after China and the U.S. In 2016, its trade surplus was 252 billion euros ($282.7 billion).
Trump's reported comments come as part of wider discussions with the EU and other world leaders on trade,
He scolded NATO leaders on Thursday, telling them that they must to more to meet their contribution targets.
On Friday, he continues his international tour, meeting in Sicily with G-7 leaders, where
- CNBC's Silvia Amaro contributed to this report.
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