US President Donald Trump has reportedly tried to persuade his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron to pull his country out of the European Union in return for better bilateral trade terms.
According to a report by the Washington Post, Trump made the suggestion during a private meeting at the White House in late April, while he and Macron were discussing trade.
At one point, he asked Macron, “Why don’t you leave the E.U.?” the Post cited two European officials as saying.
Trump also said that if France exited the union, Washington would offer Paris a better trade deal than the EU, the paper added.
Meanwhile, the White House did not dispute the officials’ account, but declined to comment.
Also, it is not clear whether Trump made the comment as a joke or as a serious attempt to undermine the bloc.
Trump has also praised Britain for its push to leave the EU and offered London a great transatlantic trade deal after Brexit.
The Trump administration is currently engaged in a deepening trade dispute with the EU over multi-billion-dollar tariffs the US imposed on metal imports from the bloc.
According to a new report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Trump’s protectionist trade policies, including the imposition of steel and aluminum tariffs on the European Union, Canada and Mexico “are likely to move the globe further away from an open, fair and rules-based trade system, with adverse effects for both the US economy and for trading partners."
The EU has taken the United States to the World Trade Organization to challenge the legality of the new tariffs and the Trump administration’s national-security justification. Brussels has also lodged an eight-page list at the international trade body of goods it would hit with retaliatory measures.