After months of transatlantic sparring, the United States and the European Union seem to have pulled themselves back from the brink of a trade war. President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced Wednesday that they had reached a breakthrough deal on trade—one with fewer threats of tariffs on European automakers, and more soybeans.
“I had the intention to make a deal today,” Juncker said alongside Trump from the White House Rose Garden in an unscheduled press conference. “And we made a deal today.”
This “new phase” in the transatlantic relationship would have seemed fanciful less than two weeks ago, when Trump declared the EU a “foe” of the United States for “what they do to us in trade.” Before that, the American president publicly sparred with European leaders at the Group of Seven summit in Quebec over Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs. Similar confrontations emerged during this month’s NATO summit in Brussels, when the president voiced more frustration with Europe—this time over defense spending.
But whatever hostilities remained between the two sides seemed to all but dissipate during Trump and Juncker’s meeting. Trump, who once dubbed Juncker “a brutal killer,” was suddenly talking about their great relationship. The meeting featured kisses and even attempts at hand-holding. But it offered little else of substance. In a joint statement, the two leaders agreed to talk—about tariffs, about trade barriers, about energy cooperation, and about World Trade Organization reform. They pledged to resolve their dispute over the U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs and Europe’s retaliatory tariffs that followed. Perhaps most notably, they agreed to not impose new tariffs that could risk escalating their burgeoning trade war for as long as their negotiations last.