Trump blasts EU on trade, defense spending ahead of NATO summit

Trump blasts EU on trade, defense spending ahead of NATO summit

President TrumpDonald John TrumpSasse: Trump shouldn't dignify Putin with Helsinki summit Top LGBT group projects message onto Presidential Palace in Helsinki ahead of Trump-Putin summit Hillary Clinton to Trump ahead of Putin summit: 'Do you know which team you play for?' MORE on Tuesday continued to express frustration with trade between the U.S. and the European Union (EU), using Europe's trade surplus with the U.S. to question Washington's spending on trans-Atlantic defense.

“The European Union makes it impossible for our farmers and workers and companies to do business in Europe (U.S. has a $151 Billion trade deficit), and then they want us to happily defend them through NATO, and nicely pay for it. Just doesn’t work!” he tweeted as he prepared to touch down in Brussels for the annual NATO summit.

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Trump has leveled a series of attacks on NATO and the EU ahead of the summit, insisting that the Europeans have for years taken advantage of the U.S. on trade matters while failing to invest enough into their own defense.

The $151 billion trade deficit cited by Trump, however, is inaccurate. While Europe has a $153 billion trade surplus in goods, that surplus drops to $101 billion when trade in services is included. 

The president's tweet continues a line of attack that has emerged frequently since Trump took office. But those attacks have ramped up in recent days ahead of the summit.

NATO members agreed in 2014 to move toward spending at least 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024 — a goal that Trump has pressed hard for allies to meet. That goal, however, applies to the defense of individual countries and not to spending on NATO as a whole, as the president has suggested.

Trump moved in May to impose steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the EU, Canada and Mexico, infuriating key U.S. allies and igniting threats of retaliatory measures against American goods ranging from blue jeans to bourbon to motorcycles.

After he leaves the NATO summit, Trump is slated to make a long-awaited visit to the United Kingdom, including a visit to one of his golf courses in Scotland. From there, he will travel to Helsinki for a highly anticipated summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.