President Donald Trump is meeting with top European Union officials amid concerns of a growing trade dispute between the two economies over automobiles. Trump says that he’s looking for a fair trade deal with the EU. (July 25)
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump said Wednesday he and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker have agreed to new talks on the possibility of eliminating trade barriers between the United States and Europe.
Calling it “a new phase” in U.S.-European relations on trade and other issues, Trump said both sides would work on a deal “toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods.”
Neither the president nor Juncker offered details on what had specifically been agreed to, though Trump – under election-year criticism from Republicans and agricultural supporters over his tariff threats – said the Europeans have agreed to buy more soybeans.
“We will also work to reduce barriers and increase trade and services, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical products as well as soybeans,” Trump said. “Soybeans is a big deal.”
While the White House offered few specifics about the agreement, the joint appearance did represent a break from the cutting rhetoric Trump and some European leaders used this year and, for now, appeared to soften concerns about an all-out trade war between the major economies and allies.
Trump, who invited several members of Congress to his announcement in the Rose Garden, has been under pressure for his trade policy from both Republicans and Democrats because of the impact tariffs have had on soybean farmers, pork producers and other exporters.
On Tuesday, Trump announced $12 billion in subsidies for farmers, though Republican lawmakers criticized that plan as welfare for farmers who would be better off if the president backed away from his tariff threats to Europe and China.
In proposing new trade talks with the European Union, Trump said, “we want to further strengthen this trade relationship to the benefit of all American and European citizens.”
He also said, “we’re starting the negotiation right now, but we know very much where it’s going.”
Trump, who had threatened tariffs on European auto imports, indicated he would hold off on further tariffs while talks are underway, and that the U.S. would talk about how to handle existing tariffs on aluminum and steel.
At his side, Juncker said Europe would also delay its own threatened retaliatory tariffs on the U.S.: “As long as we’re negotiating, unless one party would stop the negotiations, we’ll hold off further tariffs, and will reassess existing tariffs on steel and aluminum. This was a good, constructive meeting.”
Some analysts said the two sides did little more than agree to more talks, and that Trump was probably responding to concerns by Republicans that they will lose midterm voters over the president’s trade policies.
“It’s all politics,” said Stan Collender, adjunct professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. “Trump is getting serious criticism from the Republicans in the Senate. He’s got to be worried about his Supreme Court nominee.”
He added: “There’s no there there. Nothing real was announced.”
Juncker’s visit to Washington came during a rocky period in U.S.-European relations, following criticism Trump leveled at the leaders of Germany and the United Kingdom. The president, in an interview earlier this month, described the European Union as a “foe.”
“We made a deal today,” Juncker said. “We have identified a number of areas on which to work together.”
Details were not announced and the White House did not respond to questions about what, specifically, the two leaders agreed to.
Trump had pressed European leaders hard on trade in recent weeks, including during his meetings with NATO allies in Brussels. He repeatedly threatened to levy new tariffs on European autos, and his administration in May slapped import duties on steel and aluminum coming from Europe.
The moves drew howls from European capitals, and prompted of retaliatory tariffs on U.S.-made bourbon whiskey and motorcycles. Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, growing increasingly restive about the prospect of a trad war, approved a non-binding resolution calling on Congress to take a more active role in tariffs.
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