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Ahead of Trump visit, Germany voices concerns over a trade war between US and Europe

  • German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel fears the start of a trade war
  • Chancellor Angela Merkel expects difficult talks at the G-20 level
  • Over 64 percent of global CFOs told CNBC they were concerned with the tense atmosphere that has developed between the US and Germany.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump arrive for a group photo at a G7 summit on May 26, 2017 in Taormina, Italy.
Getty Images
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President Donald Trump arrive for a group photo at a G7 summit on May 26, 2017 in Taormina, Italy.

With President Donald Trump due to arrive in Germany later on Thursday, a lawmaker in the country has voiced concerns over a potential trade war between the U.S. and Europe as a result of Trump's protectionist policies.

The two countries have been on uneasy ground concerning trade since Trump took office, with the U.S. president criticizing Berlin for its trade surplus. Speaking just hours before Germany receives Trump and the other G-20 leaders in Hamburg, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told German radio that he fears the start of a trade war.

"There are things that cause great concern that the United States start a trade war with Europe," he told public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, according to Reuters, without giving further details.

His words add to comments from German Chancellor Angela Merkel who said last week that the upcoming G-20 talks were going to be difficult. Merkel and Trump met in the U.S. in March – a moment described as "awkward" by the media after the U.S. president refused to shake hands with the chancellor.

In May, Trump said on Twitter that Germany is "very bad" for the U.S. while his administration has previously claimed that Germany's trade surplus is a result of the country's manipulation of the euro. German officials, including the country's Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, have rejected such charges adding that the quality of German products make them attractive to U.S. consumers and have stated that Berlin doesn't have any power to manipulate the common currency.

In June, over 64 percent of global CFOs (chief financial officers) – across a wide range of industries – said in a CNBC survey that they were either "somewhat concerned" or "very concerned" with the tense atmosphere that has developed between the U.S. and Germany.

Meanwhile, data released in February by the German Federal Statistics Office showed that Germany's trade surplus rose to 252.9 billion euros ($270.05 billion) in 2016, surpassing the previous high of 244.3 billion euros in 2015. If it were a single trade partner, Germany would be the fifth largest in total trade flows with the U.S. But it runs the third largest trade surplus, after China and Japan.

— Additional reporting by CNBC's John W. Schoen.

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