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U.S. And Europe Reach Apparent Cease-Fire In Trade War


It appears there's a cease-fire in the U.S. trade war with Europe. President Trump sat down with the European commissioner president today to stand down the threats and start talking about lowering tariffs and barriers. In a Rose Garden ceremony afterward, the president said this.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: While we are working on this, we will not go against the spirit of this agreement unless either party terminates the negotiation. So we're starting the negotiation right now, but we know very much where it's going.

CORNISH: Also, suggested U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum could be called off, as with Europe's retaliatory tariffs against Harley-Davidson motorcycles and other American products. With us now to talk about this and other news from the White House today is NPR national political correspondent Mara Liasson.

Mara, we're going to get into the details of the agreement or at least what we know so far. But first, there was some news about President Trump's planned meeting with Russian leader Vladimir Putin this fall. Can you give us the update?

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MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: Yeah. This was a real cleanup-on-aisle-six kind of day at the White House. Not only did the president get rid of one front in the trade wars he had started, but he also got rid of a problematic and very controversial invitation to Vladimir Putin.

You know, after the president was widely criticized for his performance at last week's meeting with Putin, he announced he was going to invite the Russian president to come to the United States for another meeting in the fall. And the Russian government had been noncommittal about that, and there was a decided lack of enthusiasm from the president's own national security team about another meeting.

But now it appears that invitation is off for the moment. The White House issued a statement saying the president believes the next bilateral meeting with President Putin should take place after the Russia witch hunt is over, so we've agreed that it will be after the first of the year. So once again, the White House is blaming the Mueller probe, this time for the president's latest Russia reversal.

CORNISH: Back to the trade issue - did President Trump win any new concessions in his meeting with the leader of the European Commission?

LIASSON: It doesn't sound like he got anything new. The EU again said they'd buy more soybeans and liquefied natural gas. That's something they've been floating for a while. They did agree to start talks to get to zero tariffs, subsidies and barriers. That sounds a lot like the kind of talks that was - the Obama administration was conducting with Europe for something called the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, or TTIP. They also agreed to strengthen the ability of the WTO to work against intellectual property theft and forced technology transfer, the kinds of trade cheating that China does.

So in some ways, it sounded like a return to the Obama-era approach to trade where instead of having a multi-front war with all your allies and friends like Trump had started, you work together with allies to focus on the real trade cheater, which is China.

CORNISH: And that threat to impose a 25 percent tariff on European cars...

LIASSON: That's still out there. The president said these talks are going to be about non-auto industrial goods, so he's reserving the ability to put big tariffs on European cars, although it seems a little bit less likely that he'd do that after today. And of course the steel and aluminum tariffs remain on China and Japan and Canada and Mexico. So this is just a ceasefire for the moment with the EU.

CORNISH: That's NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson. Mara, thank you.

LIASSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.