Germany hits out at Donald Trump after he labels Nato 'obsolete' and threatens car makers wi

The German government has said it is “concerned” after Donald Trump described Nato as “obsolete”.

It came as German car manufacturers also rounded on the President-elect warning that the US would be "shooting itself in the foot" if he slaps a 35 per cent tariffs on cars manufactured in Germany.

'Confusion and anxiety' over Nato remarks

Mr Trump's remarks about Nato have caused concern among officials at both Nato and the EU.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German foreign minister, said Mr Trump’s remarks had caused “confusion and anxiety” both in Nato and in the EU.

A meeting of EU foreign leaders later on Monday would “probably be influenced, if not dominated” by Mr Trump’s remarks, he said.

“I said a long time ago that Nato had problems,” the US president-elect said in an joint interview with The Times and Germany’s Bild newspaper.

“Number one, it was obsolete, because it was designed many, many years ago. Number two, the countries aren't paying what they're supposed to pay.”

“I took such heat when I said Nato was obsolete,” Mr Trump said at another point in the interview. “It’s obsolete because it wasn’t taking care of terror. I took a lot of heat for two days. And then they started saying, ‘Trump is right.’”

The interview has reignited fears among several Nato countries that the US could split the alliance under Mr Trump’s leadership.

His remarks have been “received with concern” and caused anxiety “not only in Brussels” Mr Steinmeier said, after meeting with Jen Stoltenberg, the Nato secretary-general, on Monday morning.

“This contradicts what the American defence secretary said in his hearing in Washington only a few days ago and we have to see what it means for American policy,” Mr Steinmeier said.

Angela Merkel "read the interview with interest," her spokesman said in a guarded response.

The German chancellor's position on refugee policy, the EU and the transatlantic partnership is well-known, Steffen Seibert said in Berlin.

"We are waiting for Mr Trump's inauguration, and we will then work closely with the new government," he said.

Mr Trump’s remarks were in stark contrast with what James Mattis, his choice of defence secretary, said during his Senate confirmation hearing in Washington last week.

Gen Mattis mounted a staunch defence of Nato, and accused Russia of seeking to “break” the alliance.

“If we did not have Nato today, we would have to create it,” Gen Mattis said.

“I think right now the most important thing is that we recognize the reality of what we are dealing with, with Mr Putin. We recognize that he is trying to break the North Atlantic alliance.”

Russia immediately spoke out in support of Mr Trump’s latest remarks.

“Nato is, indeed, a vestige of the past and we agree with that. We have long been speaking about our views on this organization,” Dmitry Peskov, a Kremlin spokesman, said on Monday.

Mr Trump’s words will cause concern in countries on Nato’s eastern flank, which are already nervous over Russia’s intentions and have asked the alliance to deploy more troops .

During the presidential campaign, Mr Trump warned that the US might not come to the aid of Nato members if they were attacked unless it was “reasonably reimbursed”.

Norbert Röttgen, the chairman of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee, described Mr Trump’s thinking as a “dangerous novelty for Europe”.

“Perhaps one could say that in reality in his thinking the West does not exist,” Mr Röttgen told German public radio.

“Whether the EU is divided or contested doesn't matter to him, whether Nato is there or not, doesn't matter to him. It's obsolete to him anyway.”

Car manufacturers hit back at Trump

In an interview with German newspaper Bild, published on Monday, Mr Trump criticised German car makers such as BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen for failing to produce more cars on US soil.

"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," Trump said in remarks translated into German.

"I would tell BMW that if you are building a factory in Mexico and plan to sell cars to the USA, without a 35 percent tax, then you can forget that," he said.

While investing in Mexico, German car makers have quadrupled light vehicle production in the United States over the past seven years to 850,000 units, more than half of which are exported from there, Germany's VDA automotive industry association said.

"In the long term, the United States would be shooting itself in the foot by imposing tariffs or other trade barriers," VDA President Matthias Wissmann said in a statement.

German carmakers employ about 33,000 workers in the United States and German automotive suppliers about 77,000 more, the VDA said.

German Economy Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that rather than trying to penalise German car makers, the United States should instead respond by building better and more desirable cars.

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