European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said he was labeled a “killer” by President Donald Trump at a tumultuous Group of Seven summit in Canada, signaling the increasing personal and policy strains between the U.S. and its closest allies.
“Trump told me last week ‘you are a brutal killer,”’ Juncker, a Luxembourger, said during a speech to the Bavarian Parliament in Munich on Thursday. “That’s the first time that Luxembourg has grown into such a threat to the U.S. I think he meant it as a compliment, but I’m not so sure.”
The comments illustrate the confusion that Trump is sowing among U.S. allies with his protectionist tilt, withdrawal from landmark international agreements to fight climate change and to prevent Iran from developing nuclear arms, and criticism of defense spending by fellow North Atlantic Treaty Organization members.
Late last month, when Trump decided to revoke a waiver for the EU from U.S. tariffs on foreign aluminum and steel, Juncker said that “whenever I’m thinking about Trump, I’m lost.”
Juncker’s remarks on Thursday are also further evidence of the discord that occurred between the U.S. and other members of the G-7 group of leading industrialized countries at a June 8-9 summit in Quebec. Trump upended the meeting just as it wound up by disavowing a joint statement the U.S. had agreed to and lashing out at Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
While on his way to Singapore for a meeting with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on nuclear disarmament, Trump complained about comments made by Trudeau and called him “very dishonest & weak.” White House trade adviser Peter Navarro chimed in by saying there was a “special place in hell” for Trudeau, who had pushed back against the U.S. metals tariffs in his closing press conference at the G-7 summit.
Juncker made the “brutal killer” comment in the context of renewed criticism of his own of those U.S. levies, which Trump has justified on national-security grounds dismissed by countries around the world. The White House didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment on Juncker’s remark.
“The trade problem that we have with the U.S. is sad,” Juncker said. “We can’t let the tariffs on steel and aluminum by the American administration go unanswered.”
Earlier on Thursday in Brussels, EU governments gave the green light to the planned first phase of European retaliation against the U.S. over its metal levies, clearing the way for special duties on American goods as soon as June 20.
Representatives of the bloc’s governments agreed to impose a 25 percent duty on 2.8 billion euros ($3.3 billion) of EU imports of a range of U.S. products including Harley-Davidson Inc. motorcycles, Levi Strauss & Co. jeans and bourbon whiskey. The officials also signed off on a planned 10 percent levy on one other product imported from the U.S.: playing cards.