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Germany, U.S. risk worsening trade ties - business chamber

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany and the United States must work hard to prevent a deterioration of trade relations between the two countries, the head of the American Chamber of Commerce in Germany said on Friday.

AmCham Germany President Bernhard Mattes made the comments ahead of a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel later on Friday, which is expected to be overshadowed by Trump's plan to impose a border tax on German cars.

"Even though we currently see the likelihood of a trade war between the United States and Europe as small, the topic is still present and not completely off the table," Mattes wrote in a column in the Handelsblatt business daily.

"We call on those responsible to do everything possible to avoid a standstill or even a worsening of our trade relations. In a trade war, there can be no winners as the global economy is too networked and our supply chains too international."

Mattes noted that the United States has had a trade deficit for much of the last 35 years with the deficit growing tenfold during the fastest period of U.S. growth of the last 50 years, from 1983 to 1987.

"Protectionist measures like punitive customs, import taxes or the termination of international trade treaties would therefore only help the U.S. economy temporarily," he wrote.

Germany's 50 billion euro trade surplus with the United States has been a source of tension between Washington and Berlin.

Trump has warned that the United States will impose a border tax of 35 percent on cars that German carmaker BMW plans to build at a new plant in Mexico and export to the U.S. market.

That could prompt Germany to file a suit against the United States at the World Trade Organization, Economy Minister Brigitte Zypries told Deutschlandfunk radio.

(Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Toby Davis)