Trump Hails Trade Progress in Agreement With EU
President Trump's tariff-heavy approach to "fair trade" -- much criticized even by those within his own party – showed signs of bearing fruit on Wednesday with a surprise announcement at the White House. Trump and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said they agreed to work toward zero tariffs just months after the U.S. imposed them on the European Union, which responded in kind.
Speaking in the Rose Garden, both leaders also said they would not impose any further tariffs while negotiations continue, and that the EU agreed to buy more U.S. soybeans – a relief to an industry that has suffered greatly under the new trade policy.
“This was a very big day for free and fair trade,” said Trump. “Very big day indeed.”
For his part, Juncker said, “I had the intention to make a deal today, and we made a deal today.”
Though particulars need to be worked out, Trump said the goal includes “zero non-tariff barriers and zero subsides for … non-auto industrial goods."
The news marks a tentative success for Trump’s tough trade strategy. Just Wednesday morning, the president sent out a few morning tweets saying that tariffs are useful in negotiations and calling out politicians for their opposition.
“Every time I see a weak politician asking to stop Trade talks or the use of Tariffs to counter unfair Tariffs, I wonder, what can they be thinking? Are we just going to continue and let our farmers and country get ripped off? Lost $817 Billion on Trade last year. No weakness!” Trump tweeted.
He called out China in particular, saying it is putting pressure on farmers to get what it wants – trade deals tilted heavily in the Asian nation’s favor. Trump has made reciprocal trade a priority under his administration and has repeatedly said that America has been unfairly treated for too long.
“China is targeting our farmers, who they know I love & respect, as a way of getting me to continue allowing them to take advantage of the U.S. They are being vicious in what will be their failed attempt. We were being nice - until now! China made $517 Billion on us last year,” he added.
A group of Republican senators and House members from rural states -- who were previously slated to appear at the White House for a meeting on the issue -- were at the Rose Garden event. Among those in attendance were Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.
Republicans on Capitol Hill have already made their opposition to Trump’s trade strategy known, particularly those seeking re-election in farming states. Rep. Marsha Blackburn — who is running for the Senate seat being vacated by retiring Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker — said ahead of Wednesday’s announcement that those in her state remain “very concerned.”
"Many of these [farmers] would like free trade and definitely want it to be fair. ... They appreciate the president's end goal but are very concerned about transition,” she said. “I am not a fan of tariffs, and this is an area where I've tried to stay at the table and keep those communications [going] every day.”
Former Republican state Rep. Mike Braun, who is running for Senate in Indiana, expressed his confidence that the president will act in the best interests of U.S. businesses.
“President Trump is making good on his promise to fight bad trade deals and I applaud him for listening and working to offset China’s retaliation against our farmers. President Trump is firmly behind our farmers as he works to create better deals and put America first,” he said in a statement prior to the president’s press event.
On Tuesday, the administration seemed to relent in its call for affected industries to be patient when it unveiled a $12 billion aid package to farmers already feeling harmed by retaliatory tariffs. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said that the president wants to even the playing field with other countries in the trade war, but added that the package will help the immediate pain.
“This is a temporary measure for agricultural producers. It’s authorized in the USDA and part of their rules and we’re using that to temper this,” Perdue in an interview with Fox Business Network on Wednesday morning. “This is a temporary measure hopefully to show China and other countries that they cannot bully the U.S. into caving in on unfair trade practices. That’s exactly what President Trump’s strategy is and I think it will work.”
He said farmers will be able to sign up for the program after Labor Day. He also said that Trump would like to see a deal with Mexico “very soon,” which could trigger cooperation from Canada. After that, he said, China would be the next goal.