US President Donald Trump has threatened the World Trade Organization on Monday evening that “we’ll be doing something” if the United States is not treated properly, just hours after the European Union said that US automotive tariffs would hurt its own vehicle industry and prompt retaliation.
Trump, speaking to reporters during a meeting with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte at the White House, said, “The WTO has treated the United States very, very badly and I hope they change their ways.”
His comments came after the Axios news website reported that Trump’s administration has drafted proposed legislation that would allow Trump to raise tariffs at will and negotiate special tariff rates with specific countries — two basic violations of WTO rules.
The United States has “a big disadvantage with the WTO. And we’re not planning anything now, but if they don’t treat us properly, we’ll be doing something,” Trump said, without elaborating.
Last week, a source familiar with Trump’s thinking told Reuters that the president has privately expressed a desire to quit the WTO, but that it was not a serious proposal.
Trump also said US officials would meet soon with European counterparts to discuss a spate over trade tariffs, saying the European Union wanted to “work something out.” The EU on Friday submitted comments warning the US Commerce Department that US import tariffs on cars and car parts were unjustifiable and would harm America’s automotive industry and likely lead to counter-measures by its trading partners on $294 billion of US exports.
The Commerce Department launched its investigation, on grounds of national security, on 23 May under orders from Trump, who has frequently complained about the EU’s 10% car tariff being four times that of the United States, apart from the 25% US levy on pickup trucks.
Trump said last week that the government would complete its study soon and suggested the United States would take action, having earlier threatened to impose a 20% tariff on all EU-assembled cars.
Trump also said on Sunday that the EU was “as bad” as China when it came to the way European countries traded with the US. In an interview with Fox News he dismissed suggestions that his attacks on the EU were counterproductive and that he should instead strengthen relations with European countries to tackle the Chinese trade issue together.
Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU commission president, is set to travel to Washington this month for a meeting with Trump, and EU officials will take part in a public hearing organised by the Department of Commerce on July 19th.
EU leaders at a summit in Brussels last week warned that the EU would respond to all US actions “of a clear protectionist agenda”.