President Donald Trump And European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Trump, European Commission President Announce 'Zero' Tariff Goal

July 25, 2018 - 6:34 pm

WASHINGTON (WCBS 880/CBS News/AP) -- President Donald Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced a new deal Wednesday in which they agreed to work toward “zero” tariffs.

Trump announced the plan in a joint statement with Juncker in the White House Rose Garden Wednesday. Juncker said the two have agreed to hold off on further tariffs as they negotiate the details.

"We agreed today, first of all, to work together toward zero tariffs, zero, non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods," Trump told reporters.

A tax on European auto imports would have marked a major escalation in trade tensions between the allies.

The tone between Trump and Juncker was friendly, a marked turnabout from the harsh rhetoric the EU and U.S. have exchanged in recent weeks.

Trump also said the EU had agreed to buy "a lot of soybeans" and increase its imports of liquefied natural gas from the U.S.

Trump has long threatened to continue raising tariffs, claiming the EU treats the U.S. and particularly farmers unfairly.

As U.S. soybean farmers have struggled against retaliatory tariffs, Juncker said the EU "can import more soybeans from the U.S. and it will be done." He said the two sides also agreed to work together to reform the World Trade Organization, which Trump has vehemently criticized as being unfair to the U.S.

"When I was invited by the president to the White House, I had one intention: I had the intention to make a deal today. And we made a deal today," Juncker said.

Trump noted a few specifics on the agreement he says the U.S. and EU teams reached Wednesday. Later in the afternoon, the EU issued their joint statement.

Trump said the two will "work to reduce barriers and increase trade in services, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical products, as well as soy beans, soy beans is a big deal. And the European Union is going to start, almost immediately, to buy a lot of soy beans, they're a tremendous market, buy a lot of soy beans from our farmers in the Midwest, primarily."

"Secondly, we agreed to a strengthened and strengthening of our strategic cooperation with respect to energy," Trump said. "The European Union wants to import more liquified natural gas, LNG, from the United States, and they're going to be a very, very big buyer. We're going to make it much easier for them but they're going to be a massive buyer of LNG so they'll be able to diversify their energy supply."

"Thirdly we agreed today to launch a close dialogue on standards in order to ease trade, reduce bureaucratic obstacles, and slash costs dramatically," the president said. 

Trump also said the U.S. will "resolve the steel and aluminum tariff issues and we will resolve retaliatory tariffs."

The U.S. and EU, Trump said, are establishing an executive working group to hash out details on trade and assess existing tariffs "to the betterment of both."

"We're starting the negotiation right now but we know very much where it's going," Trump said.

Trump said the EU and U.S. are launching a "new phase in the relationship" between the two nations, one of close "friendship." Less than two weeks ago, Trump had told CBS News' Jeff Glor he considers the EU a "foe" because of how the collection of nations has treated the U.S. on trade.

Washington Post Political Reporter Eugene Scott said the plan was something of a surprise.

“It was a surprise only because Trump was coming out so forcefully against – or, should I say, in favor – of tariffs. It looked as if he was going to be more strict than he ended up being, so when the European Commission president said he wanted to see Europe and the United States work together, there was no warning or suggestion that Trump would have conceded, and should we not say concede, but at least agree to being more willing to compromise,” Scott told WCBS 880’s Mack Rosenberg and Michael Wallace.

Trump's progress with EU leaders was greeted by farm-state lawmakers who have been concerned about the impact of retaliatory tariffs on soybeans and other crops.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said what farmers in his home state need "and this might be helpful in this direction— is they got to know that this thing isn't going to go on forever."

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tweeted that the agreement "not to impose additional tariffs during negotiations is very smart and the best way to achieve a win-win solution."

He added: "Now is the time for EU and US - both victims to unfair China trade practices - to unite against China."

(© 2018 WCBS 880. CBS News and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)