BERLIN, March 23 (Xinhua) -- It would be better to tackle existing trade problems with negotiations rather than with unilateral tariff measures, a German senior economic expert told Xinhua on Friday.
"It is no longer the United States, but China that has become Europe's most important trading partner," said Gabriel Felbermayr, director of the Ifo Center for International Economics.
"Europe should not now levy protective tariffs on steel and aluminum against China and other WTO countries. That would lead to a trade conflict with China," Felbermayr added.
Ifo said that it is encouraging Germany's Economic Minister Peter Altmaier and the European Commission to protect the World Trade Organization (WTO) and not to let itself be drawn into a trade war between the United States and other countries.
According to Felbermayr, over 85 percent of the EU's international trade is not with the United States, but with other WTO countries.
"An EU agreement with the United States is at the expense of the other WTO members. The short-term benefits of a deal with Trump are offset by long-term disadvantages of weakening the WTO," he said.
Felbermayr also noted that the WTO would be weakened and left behind by EU's move to sign a bilateral agreement with the United States, because this would enable U.S. President Donald Trump to drive a wedge between EU and the other WTO members.
"Small and poorer countries would be isolated and left behind by such an agreement, and would stand hardly any chance of fighting U.S. tariffs," Felbermayr said.