Mr Trump has warned the EU Washington could impose “severe” economic pain on Brussels
The US leader also commented on this week’s Brexit drama, saying the EU-UK divorce was “tearing a lot of countries apart,” before backing an independent trade deal with the UK. EU lawmakers earlier on Thursday failed to approve a key negotiating mandate, after MEPs hostile to the trade deal changed the wording of the text. Mr Trump, for his part, promptly reiterated long-standing tariff threats.
“If they don’t talk to us, we’re going to do something that’s going to be pretty severe, economically. We’re going to tariff a lot of their products coming in. Because the European Union treats us very, very unfairly, I have to say that.
“Very, very. They treat the United States — and they have been for many years — for decades, they’ve treated us very unfairly,” Mr Trump told reporters at the White House.
An agreement on a limited trade deal was a core element of a truce struck in July when European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Mr Trump promised no new tariffs following those on steel and aluminium.
Their pledge helped to de-escalate tensions at a time when Washington threatened to slap steep duties on European automobiles, a threat that has resurfaced in recent weeks.
PM Theresa May with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker
Visibly irked by the setback, the US leader continued to vent his frustration at MEPs.
“Because the EU, as you know, has been very tough to deal with, and frankly, they’ve been — it’s been very one-sided for many, many years. And so we’re changing that around, and we’re starting to maybe get somewhere. And if we don’t, we’ll win anyway.”
Opponents to the US-EU trade talks “won a key vote on the rejection of the draft negotiating mandate in the current form,” socialist MEP Bernd Lange said. Some 223 lawmakers voted against the recommendation to start the trade talks and 198 in favour, while 37 abstained.
While the EU parliament’s role with regard to the mandate is purely advisory, it will have a final say once the deal has been concluded.
Socialist MEP Bernd Lange
But the rejection of the current deal by parliament reflects the transatlantic differences over trade, with Washington pushing for farming to be included in the deal, a proposal dismissed by the EU.
Besides, the cut-throat tariffs by the US on EU steel and aluminium imports are yet to be lifted.
“I’m fully aware that some of you are afraid we are negotiating under threat,” the bloc’s Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told lawmakers ahead of the unsuccessful vote. “I sincerely hope you will support the negotiation with us. Unity is our strength.”
The Trump administration has focused on protecting the US economy and trade, in line with the president’s winning “America First” manifesto, and has sought to renegotiate trade deals with China, Canada and Mexico and the EU.
It has also paid particular attention to the UK, which will be able to strike its own trade deals once its divorce from the EU is finalised.
Asked to comment on the unfolding political crisis over Brexit, Mr Trump said he hoped to strike a “large scale” trade deal with the UK.
“I’d like to see that whole situation with Brexit work out… We can do a very big trade deal with the UK.”
“My Administration looks forward to negotiating a large scale Trade Deal with the United Kingdom. The potential is unlimited!” he tweeted earlier on Thursday.
EU’s Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom
A delay of Brexit would also push back US-UK trade talks
But he refused to meddle in the UK’s internal affairs, saying he was “not going to comment on Brexit”.
“I can tell you it’s a very complex thing that’s going on right now. It’s tearing a country apart. It’s actually tearing a lot of countries apart. And it’s a shame that it has to be that way. But I think we will stay right in our lane.”
With less than three weeks before Britain is to leave the EU, there is no clear path yet to an orderly exit after lawmakers on Thursday evening voted to seek a delay to Brexit after twice rejecting Prime Minister Theresa May’s divorce deal.
A delay, however, would also push back US-UK trade talks.