President Donald Trump sat down with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker and kept the EU off the list of countries he said erected ‘massive barriers’ against U.S. trade.
Trump made the statement amid tense talks with Europe, China, Mexico, and Canada amid multi-front trade wars kicked off by U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum. He called for an ideal scenario of having ‘no barriers,’ while his European counterpart pointed to huge trade ties across the Atlantic.
Trump praised Juncker, who physically stumbled at this month’s NATO summit in Brussels, as a ‘very smart man and a tough man that represents his people well and the countries well,’ and touched Juncker on the leg at one point while seated next to him in the Oval Office.
THIS MAY REQUIRE SOME HAND-HOLDING: President Donald Trump (R) meets with President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, in the Oval Office at the White House July 25, 2018 in Washington
‘And we want to have a fair trade deal,’ Trump said.
‘And if we can have no tariffs and no barriers and so no subsidize, the United States would be extremely pleased,’ Trump said in brief remarks. ‘We have many countries -– we won’t say European Union – we have many countries where they have massive barriers and they have massive tariffs,’ the president added.
‘And we have to follow. And you could call it retaliation, but I’d rather just say we want reciprocal. So whether it’s with European Union or others, it has to be reciprocal in nature at a minimum.’
Juncker also offered conciliatory public remarks.
Trump called for ‘no tariffs and no barriers’
The two men met amid a simmering trade dispute
‘We are close partners, allies, not enemies, we have to work together,’ said Juncker
‘We are close partners, allies, not enemies, we have to work together. We are representing half of the world trade. $1 trillion is the trade figure between us. And so I think that we have to talk to one another, he said.
Trump also emphasized the positive, even after railing in morning tweets against China on trade, while going after ‘weak’ members of his own party who he characterized as hampering trade negotiations through complaints about tariffs and their effects.
‘And we’re making tremendous strides,’ Trump said. ‘We’re doing very well with Mexico. We’re doing very well with a lot of countries, actually, right now. But this is something as Jean-Claude said, together as a unit, we make up actually more than 50 per cent of the world trade. That’s a big number,’ Trump added.
After their comments, Trump refused to answer a series of questions about the new audio tape of his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen.
Trump hosted Juncker Wednesday for what is set to be a tense face-to-face meeting, with efforts to resolve a festering trade dispute between the two key economies seemingly deadlocked.
Speaking ahead of the White House talks, Juncker admitted he was ‘not very optimistic,’ while Trump kicked off the day with a combative series of tweets vowing ‘no weakness’ in the multiple fights he has launched with America’s trade partners.
‘I know Mr. Trump pretty well,’ Juncker told German public broadcaster ZDF. ‘I have met him frequently and know how to deal with him.’
Trump, sean seated behind Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, called for a ‘fair trade deal’
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and President Donald Trump, pictured at a summit last year, will meet over a festering trade dispute
Jean-Claude Juncker attends an European finance ministers meeting in Brussels in 2011
‘We are here to explain ourselves and explore ways to avoid a trade war,’ he said, stressing that the EU is ‘not in the dock – we don’t need to defend ourselves.’
Juncker also renewed a promise of immediate retaliatory measures should Trump make good on a threat to slap new tariffs on EU car imports.
Administration officials expect the president to push forward with 25 percent tariffs on close to $200 billion in foreign-made automobiles later this year, The Washington Post reported.
The European Union trades as a bloc so Juncker takes the lead in negotiations even as Trump has threatened to make side deals with individual countries.
Trump crowed Tuesday that his latest threat had brought Europe to the negotiating table.
He also called the EU a ‘foe’ last week in an interview with CBS News.
‘I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now, you wouldn’t think of the European Union, but they’re a foe,’ he said.
Trump is facing increasing criticism as consumers, farmers and businesses take a hit from the retaliation to the raft of U.S. tariffs on steel, aluminum, and tens of billions of dollars in products from China that he has imposed in recent weeks.
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, who is accompanying Juncker, expressed some optimism that a solution could still be found, but also said the EU is drawing up a list of $20 billion in U.S. products to be targeted for retaliation if the trip fails.
‘We hope that this won’t happen and that we can reach a solution,’ Malmstrom told the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter (DN).
She said the ‘long list’ of American goods would include machinery, agricultural and high-tech products, among others.
One idea Juncker will raise in his sit down with the president would be for the U.S., the EU, Japan, South Korea and other nations that are major auto makers to negotiate a ‘plurilateral’ agreement aimed at reducing tariffs on those products to zero, a senior European official told Politico.
The second idea he will raise would be to negotiate a limited free trade agreement between the U.S. and the EU that focused only on industrial tariffs.
Under such a deal, the U.S. and the EU could eliminate tariffs on each other’s auto exports, but they wouldn’t be obliged to do the same for other countries.
While Juncker is set to make a last effort to talk Trump out of the auto tariffs, which would hit Germany’s dominant carmakers hard, he warned on ZDF that if the U.S. moved ahead, ‘we are in a position to respond appropriately right away.’
Brussels has already retaliated against the steel and aluminum tariffs, imposing punitive duties on more than $3 billion of U.S. goods, including blue jeans, bourbon and motorcycles, as well as orange juice, rice and corn.
Juncker is no slacker when it comes to standing up to the president.
In March, he called the steel and aluminum tariffs ‘stupid.’
Canada, Mexico and China – the main target of Trump’s trade offensive – have also hit back with steep duties on U.S. goods, and have filed complaints against Washington at the World Trade Organization.
While the U.S. claims the retaliation is ‘illegal,’ the Trump administration has acknowledged it is doing damage to American farmers, and on Tuesday announced it will provide up to $12 billion in aid to farmers hurt by trade tariffs.
Trump is facing increasing criticism as consumers, farmers and businesses are taking a hit from the retaliation to a raft of U.S. tariffs
European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker is set to make a last effort to talk President Donald Trump out of auto tariffs
Tweeting about the trade standoff on Tuesday, Trump repeated his call to remove all tariffs and trade barriers.
‘Both the U.S. and the E.U. drop all Tariffs, Barriers and Subsidies!’ he wrote. ‘Hope they do it, we are ready – but they won’t!’
Early Wednesday, Trump hit back against his critics in a further series of tweets:
‘Every time I see a weak politician asking to stop Trade talks or the use of Tariffs to counter unfair Tariffs, I wonder, what can they be thinking? Are we just going to continue and let our farmers and country get ripped off? Lost $817 Billion on Trade last year. No weakness!’
That figure apparently refers to the US trade deficit in goods alone last year, which hit $810 billion last year, while the total deficit including services was $566 billion.
But more voices including in Trump’s own Republican Party are coming out against his confrontational stance.
Republican Senator Ben Sasse, a frequent Trump critic, said the president’s trade policies recalled a past of perilous economic instability.
‘This administration’s tariffs and bailouts aren’t going to make America great again, they’re just going to make it 1929 again,’ he said in a statement.
Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan sounded a more supportive note, however, saying that while he would prefer the administration use ‘better tools’ to address unfair trade practices, the confrontation could also produce beneficial results.
‘This friction that we’re having, as long as it results in lowering barriers… that’s great.’