Tariffs are set to top the agenda in a meeting Wednesday between U.S. President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
Juncker is coming to Washington with the hopes the European Union can avoid an all-out trade war by convincing Trump to hold off punitive tariffs on European cars. The potential car tariffs would hurt Germany’s thriving automobile industry and come on top of hefty tariffs that Trump has already imposed on aluminum and steel imports.
But on the eve of the meeting, Trump appeared pessimistic the two sides would come to any agreement after the U.S. leader threatened more tariffs on U.S. trading partners. In a tweet late Tuesday, Trump said both the United States and the European Union should drop all tariffs, barriers and subsidies.
“That would finally be called Free Market and Fair Trade!” Trump said. “Hope they do it, we are ready — but they won’t!” he added.
Earlier Tuesday, the U.S. president declared “Tariffs are the greatest!” and threatened to impose additional penalties on U.S. trading partners. “Either a country which has treated the United States unfairly on trade negotiates a fair deal, or it gets hit with tariffs. It’s as simple as that.”
Trump again complained the world uses the United States as a “piggy bank” that everyone likes to rob.
The European Commission has responded with retaliatory tariffs, but new levies on cars could prompt Europe to take further action.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Tuesday Europe won’t cave in to Trump’s threats.
“No one has an interest in having punitive tariffs, because everyone loses in the end,” Maas wrote on Twitter. “Europe will not be threatened by President Trump If we cede once, we will often have to deal with such behavior in the future.”
Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan told reporters Tuesday he does not think “the tariff route is the smart way to go.”
Ryan said he understands Trump is seeking “a better deal for Americans” but added the U.S. should instead “work together to reduce trade barriers and trade restrictions between our countries.”
Trump appeared to take offense to Ryan’s comments, questioning on Twitter Wednesday morning why a “weak politician” would call for a reduction of trade restraints.
Trump also erroneously claimed the U.S. lost $817 billion on trade last year, a much higher number than the $568.4 billion reported by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
He also and questioned if the government is going to continue to let “our farmers and country get ripped off.”
Without mentioning Ryan and other critics, Trump said “people snipping at your heels” during trade talks prevents the consummation of a trade agreement that will “never be as good as it could have been with unity.”