LANDSHUT (dpa-AFX) - The economics ministers of the 16 German states fear damage to domestic industry following the announcement of EU punitive tariffs on Chinese cars. "You think you're cutting the Chinese, and maybe you're cutting yourself," said Bavarian Minister Hubert Aiwanger (Free Voters) on Thursday at the end of the two-day meeting of economics ministers in Landshut.

Aiwanger named two concerns. "On closer inspection, however, we realize that many of these cars that we are imposing punitive tariffs on are produced by German companies in China," said the leader of the Free Voters. One example would be BMW, whose electric Mini is manufactured in China. The second fear is that the Beijing leadership could impose punitive tariffs on car imports from Germany.

One of the main topics of the meeting was the feared decline in German competitiveness. The state ministers appealed to the federal government to reduce energy costs for companies. Among other things, they called for the electricity tax for all companies to be reduced to the minimum level permitted under European law in order to relieve the burden not only on industry but also on other sectors of the economy, including the skilled trades.

In addition, the federal government should introduce a bridge electricity price for all energy-intensive companies and cover part of the rising costs of transmission grid fees. "We need a booster for our companies," said Nicole Hoffmeister-Kraut (CDU), Baden-Württemberg's Minister of Economic Affairs.

Irrespective of the current budget score, the federal states are also calling for more investment from the federal government in order to increase competitiveness. "It's actually an age-old economic principle that you have to swim against the tide," said Brandenburg's Economics Minister Jorg Steinbach (SPD). "Then, when things are difficult, you have to invest in that area."/cho/DP/mis