Trump says he is serious about slapping tariffs on European cars if he cannot strike a trade deal

Key Points
  • President Donald Trump tells The Wall Street Journal that he is serious about imposing tariffs on European cars.
  • In comments at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he did not specify a deadline for when he would decide whether to put duties on automobiles.
  • The president has threatened tariffs, angering European officials, but repeatedly delayed a decision as he seeks a free trade deal with the EU.
President Donald Trump attends a bilateral meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen during the 50th World Economic Forum (WEF) annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, January 21, 2020.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters

President Donald Trump said Tuesday that he is not bluffing about the possibility of slapping tariffs on European cars.

"They know that I'm going to put tariffs on them if they don't make a deal that's a fair deal," the president told The Wall Street Journal about ongoing trade negotiations with the European Union.

Trump's threat to put tariffs on a key European export — and once again ratchet up trade tensions with the economic bloc — has sparked backlash from European officials and companies. The White House has repeatedly delayed a decision on whether to put tariffs on cars from Europe. Trump did not reveal to the newspaper a deadline for his tariff decision.

The president made the comments Tuesday as government and business figures including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gathered at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Trump met with von der Leyen on Tuesday after speaking to the Journal.

Trump tells world leaders at Davos to 'put their own citizens first'
Trump tells world leaders at Davos to 'put their own citizens first'

Though Trump did not mention auto tariffs during comments in front of reporters, he said that "we're going to talk about a big trade deal and we've been talking about it for a while."

Trump also confirmed to the newspaper Tuesday that he reached a deal with French President Emmanuel Macron to delay a digital services tax that will hit U.S. tech companies until the end of 2020. Trump told the Journal that he threatened a 100% tariff on French wine.

Last week, The Washington Post reported that Trump threatened to slap a 25% tariff on European autos if Germany, France and Britain did not accuse Iran of breaking the terms of the 2015 nuclear deal.

During remarks at the forum earlier Tuesday, Trump credited tariffs with helping to bring trading partners to the table as he worked toward deals with China, Canada and Mexico. Last week, Washington and Beijing signed a so-called phase one trade deal, while Congress ratified the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a replacement for the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Trump angered the EU in 2018 by not excluding the bloc from tariffs on steel and aluminum imports.

In October, the World Trade Organization cleared the way for the U.S. to put tariffs on $7.5 billion in goods from the EU. The organization ruled that the EU provided unfair subsidies to plane manufacturer Airbus.

WATCH: French tariffs would harm U.S. workers more than France: Expert

French tariffs would harm US workers more than France, says expert
French tariffs would harm US workers more than France, says expert