After ravaging the United States, the political tsunami known as Donald Trump has reached Germany. In an interview with Bild editor Kai Diekmann, the president-elect doubled down on his blunt, harsh and aggressive rhetoric. He blasted Chancellor Angela Merkel for her “catastrophic mistake” in admitting 1 million-plus refugees. He called NATO “obsolete.” He warned BMW to scrap plans to build a factory in Mexico for the U.S. market. “I would tell BMW, if they want to build a factory in Mexico and sell the cars in the U.S. without paying a 35 percent tax, then they can forget about it,” Trump said. Or in other words: Build your factories in the U.S.
But BMW’s board is standing firm on its decision. “We see no reason to change the plan,” board member Peter Schwarzenbauer told Handelsblatt. “We will open the factory in Mexico and build the 3 Series there.” Best to roar like a Bavarian lion. That’s the only language Trump understands.
If you want to show solidarity with Trump, who becomes the world’s most powerful leader on Friday, ditch the keys to your BMW or VW and buy a Chevy. That was the indisputable message he delivered to automakers in his inimical style. Sure, cars made in Detroit may lack the pizzazz and engineering prowess of their foreign rivals but, hey, they get you there. Maybe that’s the difference between offering a good and offering a great car experience.
Merkel promptly rebuked Trump’s contention that the European Union was in a state of disintegration. “We Europeans shape our own destiny,” she said. In the background, however, one could hear scattered catcalls from the Continent.
The proud, wealthy Hanseatic city of Hamburg went in 2016 from net payer to net recipient in the federal program that redistributes tax income from rich to poor states each year, according to unpublished figures obtained by Handelsblatt. The city-state paid €112 million into the communal pot in 2015, but dipped into it for €65 million last year. In a just world, the taxpayers of donor states such as Hessen, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg should be able to jump the queue and get into Hamburg’s new Elbphilharmonie concert hall for free. Even if they won’t see any of their money there, they’ll at least hear it put to magnificent use.
The European Union expects British Prime Minister Theresa May to deliver some clarity today in her landmark speech on Brexit. National media speculate she’ll announce a clean, hard break with the economic bloc. This is no grand day for Europe. The realpolitik of yesteryear is about to be crushed.
The World Economic Forum is calling once again, and the world’s business and political elite are coming. Chinese President Xi Jinping, International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagard and Wall Street banking giant Jamie Dimon as well as Joschka Fischer, the former German foreign minister, are taking a break from their own hectic lives in Davos. In today’s special section, Torsten Riecke, Handelsblatt’s international correspondent, presents the Swiss alpine village as a window into our future – albeit a foggy one at best.
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