Trump Meets European Commission Chief for Trade Talks

President Donald Trump had his first meeting with the new president of the European Commission on Jan. 20, on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He said he had “very good” talks with the EU on Jan. 21, but if a deal were not struck, Washington would strongly consider auto tariffs.

“It’s great to be with the president of the European Commission and a woman who’s highly respected, I have to say, and I hear, a very tough negotiator, which is bad news for us because we’re going to talk about a big trade deal, and we’ve been talking about it for a while, and hopefully we can get something done,” said President Trump at a bilateral meeting with President Ursula Von der Leyen.

Von der Leyen praised the long history and friendship between Europe and the United States. “The American people and the European people are good friends. And this is what we’re going to build on, and indeed, we have issues to discuss, and we’re going to negotiate. But I’m looking forward to this relationship,” said Von der Leyen.

As the United States signed the Phase One trade deal with China, and the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement passed both chambers last week, more eyes are turning to America’s trade relationship with the European Union, where there’s ongoing tension over issues including agriculture, digital tax, and auto import tariffs.

U.S. trade with the EU totaled nearly $1.3 trillion in 2018, with a $109 billion deficit, according to statistics from the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Machinery ($80.2 billion), pharmaceuticals ($71.9 billion), and vehicles ($56.4 billion) ranked as the top three import categories.

President Trump has complained the trade relationship is unbalanced and unfair. The EU applies a 10 percent tariff on passenger vehicles and 22 percent on trucks. In contrast, the United States imposes a maximum 2.5 percent tariff on imported passenger cars and a 25 percent tariff on pickup trucks and work vans. Also, several non-tariff barriers impede access to the EU market, according to a report by the USTR.

Last October, the United States imposed tariffs on $7.5 billion worth of EU goods over Europe’s subsidies for aircraft maker Airbus. Washington also imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum from the EU.

EU-United States trade talks have made little progress over the past year.

The White House has repeatedly delayed a decision on whether to impose tariffs on cars from Europe.

Also at Davos President Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to a truce until the end of this year. The United States will hold off new tariffs on French goods, including wine, cheese, and handbags, while France will suspend collection of the 3 percent digital services tax. Most of those being taxed would have been U.S. tech companies.

Italy and the UK have similar taxes about to take effect.

Epoch Times reporter Emel Akan and Reuters contributed to this report.