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Europe’s New Trade Team to Push Back on ‘Reckless’ Trump

Ursula von der Leyen, incoming president of the European Commission.

Ursula von der Leyen, incoming president of the European Commission.

Photographer: Geert Vanden Wijngaert/Bloomberg

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The European Union’s new leadership team has an old message for U.S. President Donald Trump on trade: cut out the unilateral and protectionist actions.

A week after the U.S. envoy to the EU called for a “reset” in transatlantic ties damaged by Trump’s multiple salvos against the World Trade Organization, European Commission President-elect Ursula von der Leyen vowed to defend the global open-market order underpinned by the WTO when she takes office in November.

“Europe’s place is at the heart of the rules-based multilateral system,” von der Leyen said in a mission letter Tuesday to Phil Hogan, whom she appointed as the EU’s next trade chief.

In an Irish radio interview on the same day, Hogan himself called Trump “reckless” and urged him to see the “error of his ways” in the U.S. trade war with China.

The comments highlight how the EU’s traditional inclination to accommodate its biggest trade partner on commercial questions has been replaced by a growing resolve to confront Washington over them since Trump took office in 2017 with an “America First” agenda.