Mr. Trump was continuing a drumbeat he began during his visit to Europe, when he told European Union officials that Germany was “very bad” on trade. But the president’s campaign against Germany, while accurate on the statistics, overlooks the benefits in the German-American trade relationship, and overstates Berlin’s ability to do much about it.
German companies employ roughly 700,000 people in the United States. Carmakers like BMW and Mercedes-Benz have huge American assembly plants, which export vehicles to China and Latin America. BMW’s factory in Spartanburg, S.C., is the largest single exporter, by dollar value, in the American automotive industry.
Mr. Trump’s latest offensive appeared to be in response to peppery remarks by Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, at a political rally in Munich on Sunday, when she said Europe could no longer rely on the United States as a partner. Europeans, she said, needed to “take our fate into our own hands.”
France also runs a substantial trade surplus with the United States, and it, like Germany, falls short of the military spending benchmark set by NATO, though in both cases by less than Germany. Yet Mr. Trump has spared France the kind of vitriol he has given the Germans — largely, officials say, because France spends more on its defense than Germany.
When he met France’s new president, Emmanuel Macron, for the first time in Brussels last week, he lavished praise on him for his election victory. “All over the world they’re talking about it,” he said. White House officials said Mr. Trump got along well with Mr. Macron in private, notwithstanding their much-photographed death grip of a handshake. Officials said Mr. Trump even told Mr. Macron he had been pulling for him in the election.
There is no such rapport between the flamboyant Mr. Trump and the brainy, button-down Ms….