Donald Trump has labelled the European Union “as bad as China” when it comes to trade, as he defended his America First policy.
Asked during an interview with Fox News whether it would be better to team up with Washington’s European allies to try to change China’s trade practices, President Trump said: “No… they treat us badly, they treat us very unfairly.”
“The EU is possibly as bad as China, just smaller. It is terrible what they do to us,” Trump told Maria Bartiromo in an interview broadcast during her show Sunday Morning Futures.
Trump made dealing with “unfair” trade deals against the US a central policy during his presidential election campaign, and has particularly taken aim at China during his time in office.
While Trump has sought to play up his “great” relationship with China’s president, Xi Jinping, an escalating tit-for-tat spat over steel and aluminium tariffs has expanded to include the EU, Canada and Mexico, with the Trump administration refusing to offer exemptions.
The steel and aluminium tariffs, 25 per cent on steel and 10 per cent on aluminium, have resulted in retaliatory measures from the EU on products from motorcycles to bourbon and blue jeans.
On Sunday, Canada announced retaliatory measures against the metal tariffs, slapping US exports with $13bn of new measures.
More than 40 US steel products will see tariffs of 25 per cent. A 10 per cent tariff will be levied on more than 80 other American items, including toffee, maple syrup and coffee beans.
Earlier this week, iconic motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson announced it would be moving some of its production out of the US to avoid the tariffs, earning a number of rebukes from Trump.
Trump had tweeted on Wednesday: “We won’t forget, and neither will your customers.” He followed that up on Sunday with more stern words for Harley-Davidson.
“Everybody who ever bought a Harley-Davidson voted for Trump… and they are very unhappy about it,” the president told Ms Bartiromo.“I feel that maybe Harley, I think they are going to [take] a big hit.”
During the Fox interview, Trump admonished the EU for making it difficult for US cars to be sent into European markets, having threatened to impose a 20 per cent tariff on EU car imports.
“They send their Mercedes in and we can’t send our car products in,” Trump said. The president also quoted a statistic he often claims – that the EU had a $151bn surplus with the US last year. The number is actually about $101bn, if services are included as well as goods, which Trump does not do, despite an economic report from the White House earlier this year recommending to do so.
Despite the rift, the president said “we also love the EU”. He added: “I love these countries, Germany… Scotland.” He described the bloc as “hanging in there” but that the Brexit vote could upset that. “We’ll see what happens,” Trump said.
His words come after it was revealed that Trump is said to have told French president Emmanuel Macron to pull out of the EU for a “better trade deal” with the US. The suggestion came at a meeting in April, according to The Washington Post, quoting two French officials. Beyond tariffs, Trump repeated a claim that the US “spends a fortune” on Nato to “protect” Europe. The president has called on EU allies to up their defense spending because he says it is “unfair” the United States pays so much.
Trump also warned that having pulled the US out of the Iran nuclear deal, which was signed with a number of European and world powers, Washington would not be afraid of sanctioning European companies that do business with Tehran.