Trump faces rougher reception in NATO, EU
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[May 25, 2017]
By Jeff Mason and Steve Holland
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - After a warm welcome
in the Middle East and a "fantastic" visit with the pope, U.S. President
Donald Trump walks on shakier ground on Thursday when European Union and
NATO leaders will press him on defense, trade, and environmental
The Republican president, midway through his first foreign trip since
taking office, has basked in the glow of favorable receptions in Riyadh
and Jerusalem, where leaders lauded his harsh words for Iran.
Praise may be in shorter supply in Brussels.
Trump questioned the relevance of the NATO military alliance as a
presidential candidate, and is considering pulling the United States out
of the Paris agreement on climate change - a huge concern in Europe. The
EU was also a party to the Iran nuclear agreement, which Trump has
"We expect him to recommit to NATO's founding rule that an attack
against one ally is an attack against all," said a senior European
diplomat at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
"Words matter and there is a huge expectation on that."
Trump will also meet Europe's chief executive Jean-Claude Juncker and
European Council President Donald Tusk, who chairs EU summits, in the
He will then go to NATO's new, billion-dollar headquarters where he will
unveil a memorial to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and
There Trump, in his only scheduled public remarks before a dinner with
NATO leaders, is expected to pledge his full support to the alliance he
once called "obsolete" because he said it was not doing enough to stop
NATO hopes to impress Trump with military bands, allied jets flying
overhead and a walk through the glass-and-steel headquarters, which
replaces a leaking, 1960s prefab structure.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Trump would press NATO
leaders hard to spend more on defense and take on more of the burden of
paying for the alliance, a message Trump has reiterated repeatedly
before and after entering the White House.
Trump wants NATO to join the battle against Islamic State, Tillerson
told reporters on Air Force One.
NATO ambassadors agreed on Wednesday for the Western military alliance
to join the U.S.-led, 68-nation coalition against Islamic State in Syria
and Iraq, paving the way for a formal endorsement by NATO leaders.
[to top of second column]
President Donald Trump and his wife Melania visit the Sistine Chapel
after a private audience with Pope Francis at the Vatican, May 24,
2017. Osservatore Romano/Handout via REUTERS
EU "WONDERFUL" OR NOT?
There may be tension at the EU meeting, too, given the U.S.
president's earlier apparent disdain for the bloc. In January, Trump
labeled the European Union a "vehicle for Germany", called Britain's
decision to leave the bloc a "great thing" and said more countries
But EU officials were pleased he was fitting in the visit at all and
noted that his critical tone had changed after meeting with German
Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington and after sending U.S. Vice
President Mike Pence to Europe this year.
Trump told Reuters in February the EU was "wonderful".
"We saw two different Trumps," one EU official said, describing
campaign comments about the benefits of Britain's exit and
probability of further departures as "the Nigel Farage era" when the
UK Independence Party leader had Trump's ear, and saying that was
followed by a "more pragmatic and realistic" approach once Trump was
installed in the White House.
EU leaders may be looking for hints from Trump about the U.S. trade
relationship after the president kicked off plans to renegotiate the
NAFTA agreement with Canada and Mexico.
U.S.-EU trade represents about 46 percent of the global economy,
said Jeffrey Rathke, a Europe expert at the Washington-based Center
for Strategic & International Studies, but negotiations on a broad
EU-U.S. free-trade agreement have been on hold since Trump's
predecessor Barack Obama left office.
"The administration has not yet articulated any kind of agenda for
the (trade) relationship with the European Union," Rathke said.
"This is a big, glaring hole ...This meeting may be an opportunity
to start setting some direction on that," he told reporters ahead of
(Additional reporting by Robin Emmott and Alastair Macdonald;
editing by John Stonestreet)
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