Trump's TPP Exit Gives Germany Economic Opportunity, Says Vice Chancellor Gabriel

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks during the Inaugural Law Enforcement Officers and First Responders Reception in the Blue Room of the White House in Washington, January 22. Joshua Roberts/Reuters

German industry would take advantage of any trade opportunities in Asia and South America left by a protectionist United States, Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel said on Monday, after President Donald Trump withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

In an interview with the Handelsblatt newspaper to appear on Tuesday, he said, "If Trump starts a trade war with Asia and South America, it will open opportunities for us."

"Trump must simply recognize that the U.S. economy often isn't competitive, while the German (economy) is," he said, criticizing Trump's threat to impose a 35-percent tariff on German cars imported from Mexico.

That, he said, would be counterproductive for the United States.

Trump signed an executive order formally withdrawing the U.S. from the 12-nation TPP, following through on a promise from his campaign last year. He called the move a "great thing for the American worker".

Gabriel - Economy Minister and leader of the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), who is expected to run against Chancellor Angela Merkel in September's election - said German industry should remain confident in the face of Trump's moves.

Barely 10 percent of German exports go to the United States, Gabriel said, while 60 percent go to other countries in Europe.

"You can see the weight of our economic interests," said Gabriel. "Germany should act with self-confidence and not be fearful or servile."

"We are a highly successful, technologically advanced export nation with many hard-working people and smart companies."