AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
President Trump is cutting deals with the European Union this afternoon. In a joint appearance in the Rose Garden, President Trump and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker announced some agreements on trade.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We agreed today first of all to work together toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods. Thank you.
CORNISH: NPR's senior business editor Uri Berliner is here with me now. Welcome to the studio.
URI BERLINER, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.
CORNISH: So we just heard zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers. These are the goals. What else did they announce?
BERLINER: Well, those are big goals. That - that's a real stretch. But more concretely, they both talked about working together to - so that Europe would buy more soybeans and liquid natural gas from the U.S. Those have been two priorities. They also talked about working together to reform the World Trade Organization. So they talked about some concrete steps. These weren't deals signed in ink or etched in stone. But they talked a lot about working together, and that will lower some of the tensions between Europe and the U.S. right now.
CORNISH: How do these concessions by the E.U., if we can call them that - right? - fit into the larger trade picture between the U.S. and the many countries that the administration has targeted with tariffs?
BERLINER: Well, it may be an indication that President Trump wants to lower the tension with Europe and direct his trade battle really much more with China. Really, his main target all along has been China. The Europe thing has kind of escalated, and maybe this is a sign that's going to be dialed back.
CORNISH: Is this going to quiet the president's critics?
BERLINER: No, I doubt it will. I mean, first of all, the president didn't say anything about auto tariffs, which is really Europe's main concern. The president has threatened that it may potentially impose tariffs on European auto imports. He didn't talk about that at all. He didn't say he wouldn't do it. The steel and aluminum tariffs are still in place, so we don't know where that's going. And then, of course, there's this escalating trade battle with China.
CORNISH: I want to ask something you mentioned earlier about this idea of making changes when it comes to the World Trade Organization. What had been this administration's concerns with that body or just with the ability to settle trade disputes?
BERLINER: Well, you know, President Trump has been critical of the World Trade Organization. He doesn't feel that the U.S. gets fair treatment, fair deals there. So he'd like to see some changes there.
CORNISH: Is there any sense that any other countries might look to this, like Canada - (laughter) right? - and think that, hey, there's an opening to have a conversation?
BERLINER: I - (laughter) yeah, that's really a good point. I mean, I - Canada, Mexico must be watching this, saying, maybe there's a potential to dial some of this back, some of these escalating tensions.
CORNISH: That's NPR's senior business editor Uri Berliner. Thanks so much.
BERLINER: You're welcome.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.