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BERLIN - The German government will help German firms with business in Iran where it can, but cannot entirely shield them from the US decision to quit the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions against Tehran, the economy minister told a newspaper.
European companies conducting business in Iran face US sanctions after President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear accord between six major powers and Iran. EU officials say there is no easy way to protect EU firms and banks from the extraterritorial nature of the US sanctions.
Asked how the German government could assist German firms feeling nervous in the wake of the US decision, Altmaier told the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper that Berlin would help them assess the situation and developments while also urging the U.S. to grant exemptions and deadline extensions.
"We will help where we can, but there is no way of completely averting the consequences of this unilateral withdrawal," he said.
Turning to the US decision to impose import duties of 25 percent on steel and 10 percent on aluminum - from which European Union countries have been exempted until June 1 - Altmaier said Europe was in favor of free trade and wanted tariffs to be reduced, not raised:
"When tariffs are increased, it's the citizens who foot the bill and, if goods become more expensive, jobs are jeopardized."
He said there would be no winner in a tariff or trade war, adding: "If you fight fire with fire, all you're left with is scorched earth. And it would be the consumers who suffer. That would be fatal and that's why I'm fighting for free trade and our jobs with all of my might."
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