European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker heads to Washington tomorrow in a last-ditch effort by Europe to cool nerves and find an exit door from an all-out trade war with US President Donald Trump.
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Mr Juncker, a grizzled veteran of EU politics, follows a long list of European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who have tried to lure Mr Trump away from a protectionist onslaught that has spooked financial markets and the world.
The former Luxembourg prime minister is going to Washington without a negotiating mandate, but with the intention of thinking “outside the box” to “find a solution” with Mr Trump, said EU trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, who will join Mr Juncker on the trip.
At stake is a White House threat to slap a daunting wave of tariffs on European auto exports to the US, an action that the Europeans say would trigger a global economic earthquake and earn a withering riposte from Brussels.
If confirmed, Mr Trump’s auto tariffs would add to the steel and aluminium tariffs imposed in June.
In response, the European Union on June 22 imposed a raft of retaliatory tariffs that targeted the most emblematic of American exports, from blue jeans to Harley Davidson motorbikes and whiskey.
Fearing car tariffs, Brussels is already drawing up a list of more US products that could be hit with retaliatory duties if Mr Juncker’s trip fails.
“We will continue to respond toe-to-toe to provocations,” Mr Juncker warned in a speech on Wednesday.
“All efforts to divide Europeans are in vain,” he added
Mr Juncker’s commission handles trade matters for the EU 28 and he goes to the White House with the firm backing of Merkel, the leader of export powerhouse Germany, a country that Mr Trump has angrily singled out for punishing the US on trade.