Politics

EU’s Juncker Says ‘We Are Close Partners’ Working ‘Together,’ Not ‘Enemies’

U.S. and European leader emerged smiling from White House meeting to discuss trade, tariffs, and leveling the economic playing field

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker insisted Wednesday that the United States and European Union (EU) are “close partners” and “allies” — not “enemies” — during a White House meeting with President Donald Trump.

“We are close partners, allies — not enemies. We have to work together,” Juncker said while facing reporters alongside Trump. “We are representing half of the world trade — $1 trillion is the trade figure between us. So I think that we have to talk each to one another, and not at one another. That’s what we do today.”

Trump hosted Juncker (pictured above left) at the White House less than two weeks after the chief executive dubbed the EU a trade “foe” of the United States during an interview with “CBS Evening News” anchor Jeff Glor.

“Well, I think we have a lot of foes. 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,” Trump told Glor. “Russia is a foe in certain respects. China is a foe economically, certainly they are a foe. But that doesn’t mean they are bad. It doesn’t mean anything. It means that they are competitive.”

The remark caused an international uproar. Trump imposed 25 percent and 10 percent tariffs, respectively, on steel and aluminum imported from the EU in June. The EU retaliated with its own tariffs on U.S. steel and agriculture imports. Trump has also talked of imposing 20 percent tariffs on European cars imported to the U.S., and Juncker considered further retaliatory tariffs totaling $20 billion.

But on Wednesday, Trump told reporters as he sat alongside Juncker that “we expect something very positive to take place” following their meeting.

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“Over the years, the United States has been losing hundreds of billions of dollars with the European Union, and we just wanted … a level playing field for our farmers, for our manufacturers, for everybody,” Trump said.

“We also want a big beneficiary, frankly, to be the European Union. So we think it can be good for everybody, and that’s why we are here to discuss ,” Trump continued.

Juncker said he believes the U.S. and the EU must “focus on reducing tariffs, not on increasing them,” because “that’s we have to do. That’s our job.”

Trump said he agreed with Juncker, emphasizing that “if we could have no tariffs and no barriers and no subsidies, the United States would be extremely pleased.”

Related: Trump Talks Taxes, Trade, Tariffs and ICE

“We have many countries — we won’t say European union, — we have many countries where they have massive barriers and they have massive tariffs and we have to follow. And you could call it retaliation, but I’d rather just say that we want reciprocal” trade, Trump added.

“So whether it’s with the European union or others, it has to be reciprocal in nature at a minimum. We are working on that, and I think we’re making tremendous strides,” he said.

The two men’s statements were in sharp contrast to media reporting in recent weeks predicting that Trump’s policies were making a costly trade war between the U.S. and the EU inevitable.

Also, prior to his meeting with Juncker, Trump took to Twitter, writing, “Every time I see a weak politician asking to stop Trade talks or the use of Tariffs to counter unfair Tariffs, I wonder, what can they be thinking? Are we just going to continue and let our farmers and country get ripped off? Lost $817 Billion on Trade last year. No weakness!”

Trump expressed a negative view of his then-upcoming meeting with Juncker Tuesday when he wrote on Twitter, “The European Union is coming to Washington tomorrow to negotiate a deal on Trade. I have an idea for them. Both the U.S. and the E.U. drop all Tariffs, Barriers and Subsidies! That would finally be called Free Market and Fair Trade! Hope they do it, we are ready – but they won’t!”

At the conclusion of the remarks by Trump and Juncker, journalists began shouting questions at the president concerning the three-minute portion of a conversation Michael Cohen had with him before he was elected.

On the taped portion of the conversation, which was broadcast by CNN Tuesday, Trump and Cohen discussed financial arrangements for buying the rights to a former Playboy model’s story owned by the National Enquirer. The transaction was never completed, however, and the president denied the model’s accusation of a long-running affair in 2006.

Despite the unexpectedly cooperative tone of the remarks by Trump and Juncker, the assembled journalists shouted questions to Trump about the tape as they were being escorted out of the oval office. The president did not respond.

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