President Donald Trump is expected to receive European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on July 25. Juncker will visit Trump in an effort to heal divisions between the U.S. and Europe, following the NATO summit meeting where Trump declared the EU a trade “foe” of the U.S. Trump told CBS News: “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.” In addition, Trump recently told French President Emmanuel Macron that he should leave the EU in order to strike a better trade deal with the U.S. Trump has also been a cheerleader for Brexit -- the departure of the United Kingdom from the EU.
There are reports that France is concerned that the European Union is becoming too cozy with Trump, while Germany is seeking to shape Juncker’s offer to the United States. European Commission Secretary-General Martin Selmayr -- a German -- is believed to support his homeland’s plan of sending Juncker to the White House with three separate offers for Trump to consider. However, Juncker is not allowed to initiate formal discussions without the approval of EU members, and thus will only make political signals to Washington.
Ambassadors of the 28 EU member states met today to debate what offers Juncker should take in his briefcase to Washington. Both France and Germany are anxious for a trade deal in the wake of Trump’s threats to impose 20 percent import tariffs on European cars if the EU is unwilling to pull down its own tariffs and trade barriers. “Based on tariffs and trade barriers long placed on the US and its great companies and workers by the European Union, if these tariffs and barriers are not soon broken down and removed, we will be placing 20 percent tariff on all of their cars coming into the US. Build them here,” Trump tweeted this week.
According to a statement from the European Commission, Juncker will “focus on improving transatlantic trade and forging a stronger economic partnership” during his time in Washington. It added, “The two leaders will discuss the deep cooperation between the European Union and the United States government and institutions across a wide range of priorities, including foreign and security policy, counterterrorism, energy security and economic growth.”
For its part, a statement from the White House appeared somewhat less conciliatory and left out any mention of “deep cooperation.” It reads: “The two leaders will discuss a wide range of priorities, including foreign and security policy, counterterrorism, energy security and economic growth.”
At a Wednesday press conference, Juncker said that he "would like to make the U.S. president understand" that "The European Union and its single market are indivisible." Juncker -- a former Luxembourg premier -- was asked for his response to Trump's bid for bilateral trade deals. "All the efforts to divide the Europeans are in vain," Juncker said.
"It seems to me all these efforts to have bilateral ties, which must take place between our partners and the commission and therefore the EU, must be better explained," he added.
"I go there calmly," he said.
Europeans fear that Trump shows no compromise regarding his "America First" policies. In March, Trump imposed duties of 25 per cent on steel imports and 10 per cent on aluminium, while giving temporary exemptions to the EU and some other close trading partners. However, the exemptions were eliminated in June. When the EU retaliated with tariffs, Trump announced that he may impose steep levies on European automobiles.
Another source of friction are the differences between the U.S. and the EU on Iran. Trump has threatened European companies with fines if they continue to operate in Iran. AFP reported on Tuesday that a French official said that American officials rejected a request by France, Germany, United Kingdom, and the EU to exempt their companies operating in Iran from the sanctions. Trump reimposed significant sanctions after pulling out of Barack Obama’s signature deal of 2015 that ostensibly sought to curb Iran’s nuclear weaponization program.