BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Europe's trade ties with Washington could do with less drama, the EU's chief executive said on Friday, ahead of his trip there next month to seek to resolve a spat over U.S. metals tariffs.
Jean-Claude Juncker spoke after a summit of EU leaders who showed a united front on challenging the U.S. measures at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), an approach the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump is unhappy with.
Striking a pessimistic tone ahead of the trip, Juncker said he was not sure he would resolve the issue and chided the Trump administration for seeking to deal with member states on a bilateral basis rather than the bloc as a whole.
"I will go to Washington and ... I will present the European point of view. I don't like this idea ... the American administration (wants) to divide the European Union ... when it comes to trade. This is a competence of the European Union," Juncker told reporters, referring to the fact that the European Commission handles all the bloc's trade negotiations.
"We should de-dramatise these relations," he added. "We need these relations. The U.S. needs these relations. I am not sure we will find an agreement between the U.S. and the European Union but we'll try," he said.
European Union leaders, meeting in Brussels for a summit focussed more on migration, said the U.S. import tariffs imposed on EU steel and aluminium could not be justified and supported the European Commission's legal challenge and the duties set on U.S. products.
(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel @AdeCar, Jan Strupczewski and Gabriela Baczynska, editing by Robin Emmott)