President Donald Trump went in for a hand hold after a tense day of talks with European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker- only for the EU head to awkwardly reject the gesture.
After a press conference at the White House, in which Trump announced a trade truce that could end America’s trade war with Europe, the president outstretched his hand, searching for Juncker’s. The EU chief seemed to ignore the gesture.
In what appeared to be Trump’s attempt to save face, the president instead put his hand on Juncker’s back as the two men walked up the stairs of the Rose Garden.
Earlier this month Juncker stumbled during the NATO summit in Brussels.
A commission spokesman said he had suffered a painful sciatica attack while dismissing ‘more than tasteless’ media speculation that he was drunk.
At the end of the briefing between Trump and European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, the president outstretches his hand
As Trump’s hand searches for Juncker- the EU head rejects the gesture as the men turn to head up the stairs of the Rose Garden
Okay, I got your back: Trump instead puts his hand on Juncker’s back. Just this month the EU chief visibly stumbled during the NATO summit in Brussels
During the briefing Trump declared it was a ‘very big day for free and fair trade.’
‘We agreed today, first of all, to work together toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods,’ Trump said.
‘We will not go against the spirit of this agreement unless either party terminates the negotiation,’ he said. ‘So, we’re starting the negotiation right now but we know very much where it’s going.’
Juncker said both sides agreed to ‘hold off on other tariffs’ while talks proceed.
There were several other touchy moments throughout the day Wednesday between the two men.
During an earlier briefing Trump praised Juncker, as a ‘very smart man and a tough man that represents his people well and the countries well,’ and touched Juncker on the leg while seated next to him in the Oval Office.
President Donald Trump reaches out to touch European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, in the Oval Office Wednesday
‘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, seen seated behind Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, called for a ‘fair trade deal’
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.
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.