Trump says EU officials want to negotiate trade deal; Xi Jinping blamed for blocking progress to end tariffs

US President Donald Trump considers the EU's 10 per cent tariff on cars to be unfair compared to the US 2.5 per cent tariff, although the US maintains a 25 per cent tariff on pickup trucks.
US President Donald Trump considers the EU's 10 per cent tariff on cars to be unfair compared to the US 2.5 per cent tariff, although the US maintains a 25 per cent tariff on pickup trucks. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - US President Donald Trump said that European leaders are coming to Washington next week to try to hammer out a deal focused largely on car tariffs, while his top economic adviser accused Chinese President Xi Jinping of holding up a United States-China trade deal.

Mr Trump, speaking to reporters at the White House on Wednesday (July 18), said that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's visit will discuss car tariffs, which he cited as "the big one" among US-EU trade irritants.

Mr Trump considers the EU's 10 per cent tariff on cars to be unfair compared to the US 2.5 per cent tariff, although the United States maintains a 25 per cent tariff on pickup trucks.

"They're going to be coming on July 25th to negotiate with us. We said if we don't negotiate something fair, then we have tremendous retribution. Which we don't want to use, but we have tremendous powers," Mr Trump said.

He has threatened to levy higher tariffs, as much as 25 per cent on imported cars, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross is conducting a study on whether vehicle and parts imports threaten national security.

Mr Larry Kudlow, who heads the White House Economic Council, said separately at an investment forum in New York that he has been told that Mr Juncker would be "bringing a very important free trade offer" to Mr Trump on his visit.

Mr Kudlow said he believed Chinese President Xi has blocked progress on a deal to end duelling US and Chinese tariffs. He added that lower-ranking officials want a deal, including Mr Xi's top economic adviser Liu He, but Mr Xi has refused to make changes to China's technology transfer and other trade policies.

"So far as we know, President Xi, at the moment, does not want to make a deal," Mr Kudlow said at the Delivering Alpha conference sponsored by CNBC and Institutional Investor magazine.

"I think Xi is holding the game up. I think Liu He and others would like to move but haven't," Mr Kudlow said. "We are waiting for him (Xi). The ball is in his court."

China could end US tariffs "this afternoon by providing a more satisfactory approach" and taking steps that other countries are also calling for, he said.

These included cutting tariff and non-tariff barriers to imports, ending the "theft" of intellectual property, and allowing full foreign ownership of companies operating in China, Mr Kudlow said.

Mr Li Yong, a senior fellow at the government-affiliated China Association of International Trade in Beijing, said that Mr Kudlow’s latest comments were “totally preposterous".

“The US started the trade tensions and they imposed tariffs first, then they put all the blame on China,” he said. "The purpose of this is to sensationalise the matter and stir up public attention. This is meaningless.”