WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Thursday said his threat to impose a 20 percent tariff on European automobiles has persuaded European Union leaders to seek trade talks with the United States, even if they havent publicly admitted it yet.
“Theyre gonna come back and theyre gonna say, Lets talk,'” Trump said in a speech in Mount Pleasant, Wis., to tout Taiwanese company Foxconns decision to build a new $10 billion electronics assembly facility. Then he added in an aside: “Frankly, dont tell them I said it, but they already have. Dont ever tell them I said that. Youll screw up my negotiations.”
As of Tuesday, European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström insisted the EU had no plans for trade talks with the United States. In fact, both she and French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire said Europe was prepared to retaliate again if Trump levies a 20 percent tariff on European autos.
The EU has already imposed duties on around $3 billion worth of U.S. goods in retaliation for Trumps duties on European steel and aluminum on national security grounds. He is expected to use the same rationale to impose duties on imported cars.
Trump will meet with European leaders next month when he travels to Brussels for the annual NATO summit. In addition, European officials said Trump has invited European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to visit Washington for trade talks, although the White House has not yet confirmed the visit.
Trump framed the potential trade talks with the EU as covering agricultural as well as industrial issues.
“They send us Mercedes by the millions, the BMW cars by the millions. We send them a bushel of corn and they reject it,” Trump said. “Because they have their farmers. OK, I understand. But you know, if you dont want our agricultural product, we dont want your cars. I mean, you know, its not such a complicated formula.”