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Trump says car tariffs on ‘very difficult’ EU an option if no deal

Washington - The US may impose car tariffs on the European Union if the sides are unable to reach a deal on trade, President Donald Trump said Wednesday as he accused Brussels of being "very difficult" over a number of years.

Trump: Tariffs to come if no deal

"It's something we think about," Trump said about tariffs during a meeting with Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who was visiting the White House for talks.

"We are negotiating with them. If we don't make the deal, we will do the tariffs," he said. "They've been very difficult over a period of time, over many, many years," Trump said.

This week, the US Department of Commerce submitted its assessment to Trump about tariffs and whether EU products present a national security issue.

The report's findings are not yet public, but the completion of the study gives Trump a card to play in talks.

Trump has been threatening the EU with tariffs on its car exports, to pressure the bloc into better access for US products and to bolster his position domestically, though more duties would increase vehicle costs in the US by thousands of dollars.

Austria's numerous suppliers to German carmakers stand to suffer from such tariffs, and Kurz said he was keen to advance trade negotiations. "As a small country, we need international cooperation," said Kurz.

Going into his meeting with Kurz, Trump said the sides would discuss European affairs as well as immigration and Russia.

Both Kurz and Trump agreed that Austria is a "beautiful" country, with the chancellor going further and saying: "You would probably
say a great country."

Kurz: Many issues divide us

The meeting between the leader of the small country that is not part of the NATO alliance and the president of the world's biggest economy had been planned since last year, when the anti-immigration chancellor was the face of Austria's EU presidency.

Washington saw "a new face and an unconditional friend of Israel" in Kurz, a Vienna government source told dpa.

Trump likes to foster relations with EU countries "that represent a counter-weight to the German-French axis" within the bloc, Austrian political consultant Thomas Hofer said.

Ahead of the visit, 32-year-old Kurz lauded Trump for his pro-Israel stance, his nuclear diplomacy with North Korea, and his pressure on European NATO members to increase military spending.

However, Kurz said the main goal of his trip is to make sure "that the trade war between Europe and the US does not gain momentum."

Kurz arrived in Washington on Tuesday and met US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for dinner.

The chancellor told reporters afterwards that there are "many issues that divide us," including trade and climate protection policies.

Trump praised the US' "tremendous relations with Austria" and also joked with Kurz about his young age. "You are a very young guy," exclaimed the 72-year-old US president.