German car exports to China from U.S. fell 37 percent in 2018: Auto Association

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German carmakers appealed on Monday for tariff-free trade to preserve jobs in Europe and the United States, as the country’s auto industry association reported exports of German cars from the United States to China dropped 37 percent last year.

A trade conflict between the United States and China is having an adverse impact on the German auto industry, which has four large car factories in the United States and employs 118,000 people there, German auto industry association VDA said.

German carmakers shipped 95,000 light vehicles, including sport-utility vehicles made by BMW BMWG.DE and Mercedes-Benz DAIGn.DE from the United States to China last year, down from 150,000 a year earlier, VDA said.

In total, German carmakers made 750,000 vehicles at their U.S. plants, of which 56 percent were exported to Europe and China, while around 470,000 vehicles made by German carmakers were imported to the United States from Europe, VDA said.

“Recent developments once again proved that the automotive industry and the jobs it provides depend heavily on free and fair trade,” said Klaus Braeunig, managing director of the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA), at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“This is why we are deeply concerned about the direction that U.S. trade policy has taken since 2017. We should always keep in mind that together the EU and the U.S. account for 50 percent of world trade,” Braeunig said in a statement.

Reporting by Edward Taylor; Editing by Mark Potter