Trump announces deal to expand US beef exports in the EU — and jokes about Mercedes, BMW tariffs

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump signs a deal to boost U.S. beef exports to the European Union. 
  • The agreement comes as Trump tries to help an American agriculture industry hurt by his trade war with China. 
President Trump to sign beef trade deal with the EU
President Trump to sign beef trade deal with the EU

President Donald Trump announced an agreement Friday to boost beef exports to the European Union.

Surrounded by trade officials and beef industry representatives at the White House, Trump signed a deal to "lower trade barriers in Europe and expand market access for American farmers and ranchers." Over the course of the agreement, annual duty-free U.S. beef exports to the EU are expected to nearly triple to $420 million from $150 million, according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

"This is a tremendous victory for American farmers, ranchers and of course, European consumers," the president said at the White House as he unveiled the deal.

The agreement comes as the agriculture industry has taken a hit from Trump's ongoing trade war with China. The president has tried to limit the economic and political damage from the conflict ahead of the 2020 election. His administration recently announced details of a $16 billion aid package for farmers affected by the trade conflict.

President Donald Trump (L) arrives to make an announcement on beef trade with the European Union at the White House on August 2, 2019.
Brendan Smialowski | AFP | Getty Images

On Thursday, he threatened to put 10% tariffs on $300 billion of Chinese goods in September — a move that would raise prices on many consumer products.

Through the beef agreement, Trump in part aims to de-escalate trade tensions with the European Union. Earlier this year, the administration delayed a decision on slapping duties on European cars and auto parts.

He put a momentary scare into European officials at the White House on Friday when he brought up car tariffs unprompted.

Trump jokes about tariffs on Mercedes and BMWs
Trump jokes about tariffs on Mercedes and BMWs

"We're working on a deal where the European Union will agree to pay a 25% tariff on all Mercedes-Benzes, BMWs coming into our nation, so we appreciate that," the president said.

"I'm only kidding," he continued, sparking laughter in the room. "They started to get a little bit worried. Thank you. Congratulations. Best beef in the world, thank you very much!"

Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn later Friday, the president said tariffs on EU cars "are never off the table." 

"If I don't get what I want, I'll have no choice but maybe to do that," he said.