Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, listens via an earpiece during a joint news conference with Shinzo Abe, Japan’s prime minister, and Donald Tusk, president of the European Union (EU), following a summit at the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo, Japan. (Photographer: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg)

‘Tariffs Are the Greatest,’ Trump Tweets Before Juncker Meeting

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump proclaimed that “Tariffs are the greatest!” in warning U.S. trade partners that he’ll impose more sanctions unless they negotiate a "fair deal" as negotiations with European officials are to get underway at the White House.

Trump’s tweet Tuesday comes as he’s scheduled to meet with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in Washington on Wednesday for talks aimed at heading off a trade war, and as he continues to deal with domestic fallout from his deference to Vladimir Putin last week over Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

"Either a country which has treated the United States unfairly on Trade negotiates a fair deal, or it gets hit with Tariffs,” Trump said in a Twitter posting. “It’s as simple as that - and everybody’s talking! Remember, we are the ‘piggy bank’ that’s being robbed. All will be Great!"

Juncker won’t have a “great deal” or offer in hand when he arrives at the White House but will instead be trying to sound out Trump on approaches to resolving the dispute, said a European official who asked for anonymity to preview the meeting.

Juncker will suggest two paths, one of which is a deal among major auto exporting nations including the U.S., Europe, Japan and Canada to reduce tariffs on cars. The other would be a free trade agreement between the U.S. and European Union covering industrial goods, which would amount to a narrower version of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership pursued by the Obama administration, the European official said.

Trump has been critical of the EU over its $150 billion trade surplus with the U.S. But Europe is only one front in Trump’s attacks on trading partners. Earlier this month, the president imposed 25 percent tariffs on $34 billion of Chinese goods, with similar penalties on an additional $16 billion worth of products expected to go into effect shortly and he’s threatened levies on an additional $200 billion of Chinese products in the next month.

Beijing responded to Trump’s first wave by matching duties on a similar amount of U.S. imports and has threatened to retaliate against any further U.S. tariffs.

The Trump administration has also looked to protect specific industries with new tariffs, including a round of levies on imported metals. The 25 percent tariff on steel and 10 percent tariff on aluminum impact not only China, but traditional U.S. allies like the European Union, Canada, and Mexico. The president is also weighing additional tariffs on domestic autos and automobile parts, a topic expected to be discussed at length when he meets Juncker on Wednesday.

The European Union would expect the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs to be dropped on European imports as part of any trade deal with the U.S. and the EU would in turn end retaliatory tariffs it imposed on U.S. imports, the European official said.

House Speaker Paul Ryan expressed reservations that tariffs were the best approach.

“I just don’t think the tariff route is the smart way to go,” Ryan told reporters on Tuesday. Ryan added that while Trump is seeking “a better deal for Americans, better trade agreements -- I just don’t think tariffs are the way to go, and our members are making that pretty clear.”

U.S. companies and industry groups are finding it increasingly difficult to escape the impact of Trump’s tariffs. More than 80 witnesses are scheduled to testify during a two-day trade hearing starting in Washington Tuesday focused on products from resins and chemicals to large freight containers, electric bicycles and vaping devices. Most of the companies and business groups that have filed comments are seeking to have goods spared from duties on grounds the tariffs are ultimately a tax on consumers and hamstrings them with their global supply chains.

On a separate trade issue, Trump on Monday said he’s heading toward a “dramatic” deal with Mexico, without giving more details. Mexico is redoubling its efforts to reach a Nafta agreement with the U.S. and Canada by the end of August, according to three people familiar with the negotiations.

Trump has been seething over criticism of his Helsinki summit last week with Russia’s Putin and public doubts Trump expressed about U.S. intelligence findings that Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election. He has been lashing out at a variety of foes, whether political or economic, and his press secretary said Monday he is considering revoking the security clearances of former FBI Director James Comey, ex-CIA Director John Brennan and other Obama-era national security officials who have criticized him.

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