Donald Trump said he expects to negotiate a trade deal with the EU before this year’s US election in November, as he warned he finds the bloc harder to do business with than China.
Speaking before departing the World Economic Forum in Davos, the US president said Brussels would have to move “really quickly” to negotiate a new trading relationship.
“They have trade barriers where you cannot trade, they have tariffs all over the place. They make it impossible. They are frankly more difficult to business with than China,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
Washington placed tariffs on $7.5bn of EU goods in October, and has threatened punishing tariffs on the European automotive sector. Mr Trump suggested his administration could move quickly on fresh tariffs if negotiations falter: “I have a date in my mind, it is a fairly quick date,” he said.
The US is also sparring with European countries including the UK over proposed taxes on digital services.
The president, who has spent most of his public statements at the forum touting the US’s economic strength, said he expects to do something “very dramatic” with the reform of the World Trade Organization as he demanded better treatment from the international body.
Speaking alongside Mr Trump, the WTO’s director-general Roberto Azevêdo said he expects to visit Washington in the coming weeks and that his organisation “has to change.”
“I will talk to other members and make sure they understand this is serious,” he said.
On China, Mr Trump said the US is already in talks for ‘phase two’ of a trade deal, and that he would like to “do something” to include the human rights situation in Hong Kong as part of the talks, without giving further specifics.
Asked about climate change, a key theme of the annual gathering of world leaders and business figures, Mr Trump said he does broadly accept that it is real, but that he thinks aspects of it have been exaggerated.
The president described the US as “clean and beautiful,” and said climate activist Greta Thunberg “ought to focus” on other countries. The US is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, behind China.