President Trump Hints at Retaliation Against EU for Unfair Trade Policies

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President Donald Trump extended his threats of action against America's trading partners, this time hinting at major retaliation against the European Union for what he described as its "very unfair" trade policy toward the U.S.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly complained about global trading arrangements that he says discriminate against the U.S. and has threatened steps that have fanned anxieties around the world about U.S. protectionism and the possibility it could set off a global trade war.

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His comments about the EU come days after he imposed steep tariffs on imports of solar panels and washing machines, a move aimed mainly at curbing imports from Asia.

They were the first of what administration officials said would be a series of trade-enforcement actions in the coming months.

"I've had a lot of problems with European Union, and it may morph into something very big from that standpoint, from a trade standpoint," Mr. Trump said in an interview with the U.K. broadcaster ITV, due to be aired later Sunday. The U.S. response would be "very much to their detriment," he said of the EU.

"It's a very unfair situation. We cannot get our product in. It's very, very tough," he said. "And yet they send their product to us -- no taxes, very little taxes."

Excerpts from the interview, conducted on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, were published by The Mail on Sunday, the U.K. newspaper.

The EU's executive branch -- the European Commission -- didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Trump has frequently criticized multilateral trade agreements, and suggested he favored bilateral deals, while expressing concern about America's trade deficits with other countries.

Shortly before taking office, he called the EU a "vehicle for Germany." After his trip to Europe in May, his first foreign visit as president, he also threatened action against Berlin.

"We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany.... Very bad for U.S. This will change," President Trump tweeted after meeting last year with EU and European leaders during a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Brussels.

The EU has regularly warned that U.S. actions smack of protectionism and risk undermining international free trade.

Mr. Trump's decision to impose levies on solar panels and washing machines drew ire from Brussels. European solar panels make up about 2% of all U.S. imports. An EU official said the bloc would review the measures and react "firmly and proportionately" if the measures significantly impacted European exports.

Mr. Trump has long promised to pursue a harder trade line in defense of U.S. manufacturers. On his first workday in office a year ago, he signed an order withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade agreement being negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama. The president, however, signalled a potentially major policy shift on Friday in Davos, saying the U.S. "would consider negotiating" a trade deal with TPP countries, individually or as a group. Mr. Trump also is renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, a 1994 trade pact between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

In the interview Sunday, Mr. Trump also criticized Britain's approach to negotiating its exit from the EU, scheduled for March 2019, saying he "wouldn't negotiate it the way it's [being] negotiated."

Mr. Trump said "I think I would have said that the European Union is not cracked up to what it's supposed to be. And I would have taken a tougher stand in getting out."

Mr. Trump, however, reiterated his commitment to striking a bilateral trade deal with the U.K. once its departure from the EU made that possible, saying the U.S. will be Britain's "great trading partner."

"We are going to make a deal with U.K. that'll be great."

Write to Wiktor Szary at Wiktor.Szary@wsj.com and Emre Peker at emre.peker@wsj.com

President Donald Trump extended his threats of action against America's trading partners, this time hinting at major retaliation against the European Union for what he described as its "very unfair" trade policy toward the U.S.

Mr. Trump has repeatedly complained about global trading arrangements that he says discriminate against the U.S. and has threatened steps that have fanned anxieties around the world about U.S. protectionism and the possibility it could set off a global trade war.

His comments about the EU come days after he imposed steep tariffs on imports of solar panels and washing machines, a move aimed mainly at curbing imports from Asia.

They were the first of what administration officials said would be a series of trade-enforcement actions in the coming months.

"I've had a lot of problems with European Union, and it may morph into something very big from that standpoint, from a trade standpoint," Mr. Trump said in an interview with the U.K. broadcaster ITV, due to be aired later Sunday. The U.S. response would be "very much to their detriment," he said of the EU.

"It's a very unfair situation. We cannot get our product in. It's very, very tough," he said. "And yet they send their product to us -- no taxes, very little taxes."

Excerpts from the interview, conducted on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, were published by The Mail on Sunday, the U.K. newspaper.

The EU's executive branch -- the European Commission -- didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Trump has frequently criticized multilateral trade agreements, and suggested he favored bilateral deals, while expressing concern about America's trade deficits with other countries.

Shortly before taking office, he called the EU a "vehicle for Germany." After his trip to Europe in May, his first foreign visit as president, he also threatened action against Berlin.

"We have a MASSIVE trade deficit with Germany.... Very bad for U.S. This will change," President Trump tweeted after meeting last year with EU and European leaders during a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit in Brussels.

The EU has regularly warned that U.S. actions smack of protectionism and risk undermining international free trade.

Mr. Trump's decision to impose levies on solar panels and washing machines drew ire from Brussels. European solar panels make up about 2% of all U.S. imports. An EU official said the bloc would review the measures and react "firmly and proportionately" if the measures significantly impacted European exports.

Mr. Trump has long promised to pursue a harder trade line in defense of U.S. manufacturers. On his first workday in office a year ago, he signed an order withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade agreement being negotiated by his predecessor, Barack Obama. The president, however, signalled a potentially major policy shift on Friday in Davos, saying the U.S. "would consider negotiating" a trade deal with TPP countries, individually or as a group. Mr. Trump also is renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, a 1994 trade pact between the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

In the interview Sunday, Mr. Trump also criticized Britain's approach to negotiating its exit from the EU, scheduled for March 2019, saying he "wouldn't negotiate it the way it's [being] negotiated."

Mr. Trump said "I think I would have said that the European Union is not cracked up to what it's supposed to be. And I would have taken a tougher stand in getting out."

Mr. Trump, however, reiterated his commitment to striking a bilateral trade deal with the U.K. once its departure from the EU made that possible, saying the U.S. will be Britain's "great trading partner."

"We are going to make a deal with U.K. that'll be great."

Write to Wiktor Szary at Wiktor.Szary@wsj.com and Emre Peker at emre.peker@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

January 28, 2018 11:46 ET (16:46 GMT)

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