With friends like Trump, who needs enemies — European Union chief

Tusk said he wanted the European leaders to "reconfirm" that they will stay in the Iran deal, as long as Tehran respects it - although Europe must now find a way to make up for the USA sanctions on Iran that Trump will reactivate.

Tusk's public comments on Wednesday also touched on the new US tariffs on steel and aluminum that are set to bite on June 1 unless Trump grants a reprieve. He has made us realise that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm.

The European Union's top official launched a stinging attack Wednesday on President Donald Trump, slamming his "capricious assertiveness" and saying the U.S. leader acted more like an enemy than a friend.

European Union Council President Donald Tusk said the EU must be more united than ever before to deal with what he called Trump's "capricious assertiveness".

However, a number of trade specialists in Brussels say that quotas on industrial goods are not allowed under WTO rules and that, in any case, the European Union demand is that no measures be imposed.

Trump's decision to abandon the 2015 nuclear accord risks exposing European countries that have since invested in Iran to renewed USA sanctions, after "wind-down" periods of three to six months expire.

The European Commission is refusing to open talks on wider trade terms with the U.S., including import tariffs on cars - a bugbear of the United States president - until it receives a permanent exemption from punitive taxes on European steel and aluminium.

This move sparked discontent among the key U.S. trading partners, especially the EU.

"The EU and U.S. are friends and partners, therefore USA tariffs can not be justified on the basis of national security", he said.

"The EU will continue fighting for a rules-based global system despite recent decisions on climate change, tariffs and Iran", the source said after the leaders met over dinner in Sofia.

"These talks will be based on the principles of reciprocity and WTO compatibility and with the objective of avoiding a trade war", the source said.

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, a former head of Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet, has acknowledged that finding a common stance with France and formulating an offer to the United States were "equally difficult". The shifting desires make it almost impossible to negotiate with the White House, many diplomats say, because they can not strike a bargain to get close to what Trump wants when he doesn't know it himself.

On Saturday, Merkel told Europeans that the US had made potential peace in the Middle East "even more difficult" and warned that "the harder the problem is, and the easier the solution is claimed to be, the more suspicious and critical everyone should be". It is expected to notify the WTO of its potential plans this week.

The European Commission, which oversees trade policy for the 28 EU members, has insisted that the EU be granted a permanent exemption without conditions.

Such an agreement would be far simpler, limited largely to tariff reduction, and would not be known as "TTIP", a red rag to anti-globalisation protesters.

He then added that the European Union needed to prepare for the negative impact this United States decision could have on their continent.

Altmaier said the Europeans should discuss this regardless of any exemption.

  • Kyle Peterson