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European Commission Head Jean-Claude Juncker To Talk Tariffs With Trump

NOEL KING, HOST:

Some European officials think that the only way to engage with President Trump is to behave like he does - by taking a hard line approach in negotiations. The president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, will meet with Trump today. And the big question is, will Juncker do that? Will he take a hard line? With me now is Ambassador Carla Hills. She served as U.S. trade representative in the first Bush administration. Good morning, Ambassador.

CARLA HILLS: Good morning.

KING: All right. So ahead of today's meeting, President Juncker told German media that he's here to, quote, "explain and find out how to prevent a trade war." But he said he wasn't overly optimistic. I'm curious about Juncker because he seems like a very no-nonsense guy. What approach do you expect him to take with President Trump today?

HILLS: Well, I have no forecast other than to say that he's correct that he ought to lay out a plan and try to work out a way in which we can get out of this tit-for-tat tariffs. They're very much injuring our economy.

KING: That seems like it would be a difficult thing to do given statements that the president has made. He tweeted ahead of this meeting that he has an idea for the European Union. Here's what President Trump said. Quote, "both the U.S. and the EU drop all tariffs, barriers and subsidies. That would finally be called free market and fair trade. Hope they do it. We are ready, but they won't. Exclamation point." End quote. What do you make of that idea?

HILLS: Well, we could begin negotiations of a free trade agreement with Europe. We've talked about that in the past. And that would be beneficial, but that won't be done over a single meeting. That will take years to negotiate through all the issues that we have.

KING: And is that why it hasn't been done yet because it just takes a long time to negotiate?

HILLS: Well, I think that we've had some differences. And the past administration focused on Asia. And it was a shame that we pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership because having resolved so many of the issues in the chapters that were covered by the Trans-Pacific Partnership, that could have been a model, a template for future trade agreements.

KING: President Trump has also talked about putting tariffs on cars and car parts that are made in the EU. The head of the EU Trade Commission now says the EU is preparing a list of retaliatory measures on $20 billion worth of U.S. goods. That news broke this morning. Are we entering a downward spiral here?

HILLS: I'm very worried about it. Let's be clear. There's not a single U.S. auto manufacturer that doesn't require some imported parts. And if we put tariffs on their parts, their cars are going to be less competitive, and they will sell fewer.

KING: Let me pivot a little bit to the state of U.S. farmers because they are currently actively suffering as a result of these tariffs, so much so that the Trump administration is going to give them $12 billion in aid. That announcement was made yesterday. Is that a government bailout? And what do you make of that offer?

HILLS: That won't make up the pain that they're causing our agricultural sector. I just read that the soybean sector alone is - in this crop year going to lose $16 billion. You know, you don't flip on your overseas sales like a light switch. If you stop dealing with your customers, they find other places to buy. And that means that you don't have them in the future. So I hope that we can get rid of this tit-for-tat, sit down, have a good trade agreement and continue the prosperity of our country.

KING: Former U.S. Trade Representative Carla Hills. She now heads Hills & Company International Consultants. Ambassador, thank you so much.

HILLS: A pleasure to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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