James Politi in Washington
US president Donald Trump warned Brussels that his administration could inflict “pretty severe” economic pain on the EU if it did not engage in trade talks with Washington.
After meeting Leo Varadkar, the Irish prime minister, in Washington on Thursday, Mr Trump lamented that the EU had been “very very tough” to deal with on trade over the years.
“They were unwilling to negotiate with the Obama administration, and they were unwilling before that, to be honest. I’m not just blaming President Obama,” Mr Trump said. “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”, he said.
The EU did in fact hold lengthy negotiations with the Obama administration about a comprehensive trade deal, but they were not concluded before Mr Obama left office.
Under Mr Trump, the US and the EU have vowed to launch trade negotiations to reduce tariffs on industrial goods, but the talks are at a stalemate because Washington wants to include agriculture in the negotiations, which Brussels is resisting.
Meanwhile, the US has slapped tariffs on EU steel and aluminium imports, and has threatened to impose more levies on EU automotive imports, actions which have diminished trust in the Trump administration across European capitals.
The trouble in the EU-US trade relationship was reinforced on Thursday when the European Parliament voted against moving ahead with the negotiations with Washington.
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