WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out at European Union trade rules Tuesday, saying the bloc has made life near "impossible" for US firms, and threatening to ramp up tariffs on imports into the US.
"The European Union has been particularly tough on the United States," Trump said as he hosted Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven at the White House.
"They make it almost impossible for us to do business with them, and yet they send their cars and everything else back into the United States."
Meanwhile, the US is "subsidizing" Europe militarily, he said.
"The European Union has not treated us well. And it's been a very, very unfair trade situation."
Trump, who has threatened to institute 25 percent import duties on steel from all foreign producers and 10 percent on aluminum, said he was not afraid of sparking a conflict over trade.
"When we're behind on every single country, trade wars aren't so bad," he said.
"The trade war hurts them. It doesn't hurt us. So we'll see what happens."
He warned that he was ready to ramp up import duties on European cars in the US, most of which come from Germany.
"They can do whatever they'd like. But if they do that, then we put a big tax of 25 percent on their cars and believe me, they won't be doing it very long."
Speaking after bilateral meetings in the White House, Lofven cautioned that open and free trade is "crucially important" for Sweden and the EU.
He noted that it is "very, very complicated to see" how global supply chains meld materials and inputs from many countries into a final product like a car or airplane.
"I know for example, when we start our aircraft, a very good aircraft, the content is American," Lofven said.
He also pointed out that tariffs would come down hard on European factories even though they produce only about 10 percent of the steel in the world, while China produces about 50 percent, he said.
"I am convinced that increased tariffs will hurt us all in the long run," he said.
"I of course support the efforts of the European Union to achieve trade with fewer obstacles and as few as possible."