Did Donald Trump accidentally suggest that the US join the European Union?

Juncker chats with Trump last July.
Juncker chats with Trump last July.
Image: Reuters/Michael Kappeler
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Donald Trump’s sit-down in Washington, DC this afternoon with European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker is expected to be tense. Both sides will negotiate the terms of an escalating trade war, which started when the Trump administration imposed tariffs on global steel and aluminum imports.

The EU has already put tariffs on $3.2 billion in US products, and is threatening more. But last night, Trump tweeted a new idea—that both sides should make peace and drop all tariffs, barriers and subsidies instead.

It’s impossible to tell whether Trump has given any serious thought to the proposition. The office of the US Trade Representative didn’t immediately answer a question about whether they were working on it.

What Trump’s proposing already exists of course, inside the European Union. The creation of the “single market” treats European Union nations as “one territory without any internal borders or other regulatory obstacles to the free movement of goods and service,” that includes 500 million consumers and 21 million small and mid-sized businesses.

Barriers do remain in the single market, including local laws and specifications for how EU rules are implemented, but the overall structure is what Trump proposed. However, joining that free market comes with the obligation to abide by European Commission rules—a condition that this or any White House would be unlikely to agree to.