European Union leader Donald Tusk has called on U.S. President Donald Trump to maintain longstanding trans-Atlantic relations that have been increasingly strained since Trump announced stiff trade tariffs on imported steel and aluminum.
"Instead of risking a trade war, which he seems eager to wage, we should be aiming for greater cooperation,'' Tusk said at a news conference Wednesday in Helsinki, Finland.
Trump, however, has continued to defy protests both from abroad and within his own Republican Party, tweeting Wednesday, "We cannot keep a blind eye to the rampant unfair trade practices against our Country!"
Trump has maintained the tariffs are necessary to protect U.S. security, but E.U. Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said Trump's assertion is simply a ploy.
"We suspect that the U.S. move is effectively not based on security considerations but an economic safeguard measure in disguise," said Malmstrom.
Malmstrom told the EU parliament the 28-nation bloc would develop countermeasures targeting U.S. goods, while continuing to pursue an exemption from Trump's tariffs that could take effect next week.
Mistrust between the U.S. and its long-time European allies has escalated since Trump was elected president in 2016, with the tariff announcement being the latest point of friction.
Tusk said there was still time to improve relations and urged Trump to deliver on his promise to exempt "real friends'' from the tariffs.
Instead of threatening a trade war, Tusk called on Trump to resume U.S.-EU talks which began under former President Barack Obama but were never finished.
"Make trade, not war, Mr President,'' Tusk said in comments posted on Twitter.
The EU says in place of tariffs, the U.S. should try to reduce a surplus of steel and aluminum on global markets, which experts says is primarily due to China's overproduction in recent years.
In a VOA interview broadcast Wednesday, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said a major reason for Europe's opposition is that "... they too are being dumped on by China and other places. And they’re afraid if we build an effective wall against China, they’ll be subjected to more dumping."
Dumping refers to the practice of exporting products to other countries at very low or below market prices.