July 17, 2018 / 2:31 PM / 3 months ago

EU chief to visit Trump on July 25 for trade talks

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker will visit U.S. President Donald Trump in Washington on July 25 to discuss strained trade ties.

FILE PHOTO: European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker arrives for the second day of a NATO summit in Brussels, Belgium, July 12, 2018. Tatyana Zenkovich/Pool via REUTERS

“President Juncker and President Trump will focus on improving transatlantic trade and forging a stronger economic partnership,” the Commission said in a statement on Tuesday that announced the date.

The United States imposed import tariffs on EU steel and aluminum at the start of June and has also threatened to increase duties on EU cars.

Trump met Juncker last week in Brussels during a meeting of the NATO military alliance, firing off a Twitter salvo on the eve of his visit.

“The European Union makes it impossible for our farmers and workers and companies to do business in Europe (U.S. has a $151 billion trade deficit), and then they want us to happily defend them through NATO, and nicely pay for it. Just doesn’t work!”

EU officials have been trying to lower expectations over what Juncker and Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom can achieve in Washington, noting Trump’s rejection of many European arguments at last month’s G7 summit in Canada.

However, with Trump threatening to target the politically and economically more sensitive car industry, the Commission, which conducts trade negotiations for all 28 EU states, is hoping to at least give Trump pause for thought.

“If we can instill some second thoughts even, that would be a success,” an EU official said. “Is he really comfortable launching a $100-billion trade war over cars?”

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, Robert-Jan Bartunek and Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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