During a meeting in July, Juncker and Trump agreed to turn the temperature down on EU-US trade disagreements.
“The European Union has been very tough on the United States,” Trump stated in his remarks at the White House on 1 October, a video of which was posted on Youtube by Time magazine (starting at 20:12):
“They have massive trade barriers and they didn’t want to come [for trade negotiations], they didn’t want to talk. Jean-Claude, great businessperson, head of the European Union, Jean-Claude, my friend. I say, ‘Jean-Claude, we want to make a deal.’ He says, ‘no, no, no, we are very happy’.”
For emphasis, Trump said “no, no, no, we are very happy” in a vaguely French accent.
“I said, you may be very happy, but I’m not happy. Because we have one of the worst deals of any group, we have one of the worst deals with the European Union.”
The US president then said:
“And finally after going through a whole process, I said, look, we’re just going to put a tax of 20% on all of the millions of Mercedes and BMWs, all of the cars, the millions and millions of cars that they sell here, that they won’t take over there. Farm product that they won’t take over there, because there are barriers, you can’t sell, you’re not allowed to. Our farmers are not allowed to sell over there many of their products. Much of their products. Most of them. And so I announced that we’re going to put a 20% tariff, could be 25, on their cars coming in, and they immediately called and said we’d like to start negotiations. And we’re having a successful negotiation. We’ll see what happens. Who knows. I always say, who knows. But we’ll see. I have a feeling that we’ll be successful.”
While Trump referred to Juncker as a “great businessperson”, Juncker has never worked in the private sector. After completing law school, he was named a parliamentary secretary for the CSV. He was elected to parliament in 1984, became a cabinet minister in 1984 and was Luxembourg’s prime minister from 1995 and 2013.
Trump also referred to Juncker as “head of the European Union”, which is a bit inaccurate. Juncker became head of the European Commission, the EU’s executive body, in 2014.
In addition, Trump referred to “millions of Mercedes and BMWs” being sold in the US. German carmakers sold 1.35m new vehicles in the US last year, according to the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA). German manufacturers have 8% marketshare for cars, behind American and Japanese competitors. This includes the 803,000 vehicles made at German-owned production plants located inside the US.
Earlier in his speech, Trump said that South Korea, Japan and India had also recently contacted Washington to start new trade talks.