Trade

Trump speaks with Juncker on trade negotiations

U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday spoke with the president of the European Commission just several days after the two agreed to halt new tariffs and negotiate trade practices in an attempt to avoid a trade war.

“President Trump spoke with EU President [Jean-Claude] Junker today,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders wrote in a statement, according to a pool report. “The two leaders continued to build on their previous discussion on renewed U.S.-EU trade cooperation.”

Junckers last name was initially misspelled in the first statement, but was later corrected in a follow-up statement.

The call comes two days after the United States agreed to halt plans to impose new tariffs against the European Union, in addition to working to eliminate tariffs on all non-auto industrial goods, increase cooperation on energy purchases and work together to reform the World Trade Organization.

The agreement to negotiate came after tensions between the two trading partners increased when Trump imposed tariffs on EU steel and aluminum, to which the EU retaliated with their own tariffs on roughly $3.3 billion in U.S. goods.

A spokeswoman for the Commission confirmed the call. “It was indeed a follow-up to their meeting in D.C. and the joint agreement to continue the cooperation in the areas outlined,” the spokeswoman said.

Separately, Juncker gave an interview on Friday to the German broadcaster ARD in which he was asked to explain the photo showing him kissing Trump on the cheek. Juncker, in an unexpected reply, said that it was Trump who initiated the kiss.

“In contrast to my usual behavior, the initiative surprisingly did not come from me,” Juncker said in the interview. “I also did not know that a photographer was in the Oval Office. But it actually summed up the ambience of the moment well. Mr. Trump has published the picture, not me. ”

In the interview, Juncker also claimed that he finally prevailed in a longstanding argument with Trump over trade statistics, in which the U.S. president has loudly complained about a large U.S. deficit. Juncker said he was able to convince Trump using statistics from American sources that the U.S. is actually in surplus once services and profits of American companies in Europe are factored in.

“The consistency, the consistency and the permanence of the lecture always the same arguments and numbers,” Juncker said, explaining how he prevailed. “On several occasions, I have tried to make it clear that when you add up merchandise trade, services, profits of American multinationals in Europe, the US has a surplus and we are actually in deficit. Trump has always denied these figures until I could prove to him that those are the numbers of American statisticians, and the conversation was friendly.”

David Herszenhorn contributed to this report.

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