Trump Puts Europe on Notice Over Trade: 'We Can't Do It Anymore'

President Donald Trump has warned the European Union he will no longer put up with what he says are unfair trading practices, vowing to take on the bloc after reaching milestones in negotiations with China and his North American neighbors.

The president has spent the last two days in Switzerland attending the World Economic Forum in the alpine town of Davos.

Mingling with fellow world leaders, business leaders and billionaires, the president has been touting America's economic achievements—though some of his boasts are spurious—while testing out messaging for his November re-election bid.

On Wednesday morning, he spoke with CNBC host Joe Kernen, lauding his recent trade deals with China, Canada and Mexico, while warning that the EU was next on his list.

In the past, the president has characterized the world's largest single market as a "foe" that has taken advantage of the American economy. Trump has previously imposed tariffs on the EU in an effort to force the union to adopt practices more beneficial to the U.S.

"Europe has been very, very tough to deal with," Trump told Kernen Wednesday. "They've taken advantage of our country... for many, many years. And I told them, we can't do it anymore."

Trump met with new European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen at Davos on Tuesday, calling the former German defense minister "terrific." The pair "had a great talk," Trump said.

Nonetheless, the president warned that "if we don't get something, I'm going to have to take action, and the action will be very high tariffs on their cars and other things that come into our country."

Trump's aggressive trade policy has sent shivers through international markets, particularly his long-running and expansive trade conflict with China.

The president is celebrating agreeing a "phase 1" deal with Beijing, though some analysts are skeptical as to whether it can succeed.

But the president predicted that the coming trade dispute with Europe would be an easier win. "I don't want your audience to get nervous," he told Kernen. "They're going to make a deal, because they have to. They have to. They have no choice... And I would be very surprised if I had to implement the tariffs."

"We've had a tremendous deficit for many, many years," Trump added, putting the number at over $150 billion—an exaggerated figure according to The New York Times.

The president struggled to make progress with former EU Commissioner Jean-Claude Junker, who he described as "a friend of mine" but "impossible to deal with." Trump said that at the time he "never played my cards," but that after his success with China and on the United States–Mexico–Canada Agreement, that might change.

"I didn't want to do that again while I was doing China," he explained. "I wanted to do China first. I wanted to do Mexico and Canada first. But now that we're all done—and now what we do is we are going to do Europe.

The EU is still grappling with Britain's protracted exit from the bloc, and will be for years to come. The U.K. is seeking a fresh trade deal with both the EU and the U.S., the latter designed to soften the blow of leaving the European single market.

Trump said British and American officials have already started negotiating, noting that he and Prime Minister Boris Johnson are friends. "He wants to make a deal, and that's okay with me," Trump said. "I think they want it, they need it."

British opposition politicians have warned that a U.S. trade deal might force the U.K. to deregulate its economy and undermine food standards, environmental protections and workers' rights.

Opponents have also framed a potential agreement as a threat to Britain's much-loved National Health Service, warning that an American deal may force Britons to accept higher medical costs.

Donald Trump, Ursula von der Leyen, EU
President Donald Trump shakes hands with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen prior to their meeting at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on January 21, 2020. JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images/Getty