By Catherine Lucey 

LONDON -- President Trump suggested a trade war with China could drag out past the 2020 election and stoked a tariff spat with France during a visit to Europe for a NATO meeting.

Mr. Trump said he had "no deadline" to conclude a trade deal with China, adding that "in some ways I like the idea of waiting until after the election," during a sitdown with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday in London.

The president's comments injected fresh uncertainty over the future of a "phase-one" trade deal between the U.S. and China. Looming closer are the administration's plans to impose tariffs on smartphones, toys and other products from China on Dec. 15.

In Europe for the two-day gathering, Mr. Trump also criticized French President Emmanuel Macron for comments he made about the 29-member military alliance, and expressed frustration with France's new digital-services tax.

"I don't want France taxing American companies. If they're going to be taxed it's going to be the United States that will tax them," Mr. Trump said, during a freewheeling exchange with reporters that lasted for over 50 minutes.

The French tax, which was signed into law July 24, applies a 3% tax on revenue that tech companies reap in France from such activities as undertaking targeted advertising or running a digital marketplace. In response, the Trump administration has proposed tariffs of up to 100% against $2.4 billion of French imports.

Mr. Trump also said the French leader's comments about NATO were "very insulting." Ahead of the meeting, Mr. Macron gave an interview to the Economist, warning that the continent was experiencing "the brain death of NATO" and renewing his call for Europe to bolster its own military capabilities.

"It's a tough statement," Mr. Trump said. "When you make a statement like that, that is a very, very nasty statement to essentially, including them, 28 countries."

Mr. Trump is expected to meet later Tuesday with Mr. Macron, as well as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, before attending tea with Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, as well as a reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by Queen Elizabeth II. The president is also due at a reception at Number 10 Downing Street hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Visiting the U.K. days ahead of parliamentary elections, Mr. Trump said he had "no thoughts" on the vote and promised to "stay out" of the election. But he also praised Mr. Johnson, saying he was "very capable and I think he'll do a good job."

Mr. Trump attended the NATO meeting as impeachment proceedings continue in Washington. On Wednesday, while the president is meeting with foreign leaders, the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing with legal experts on what constitutes an impeachable offense.

Asked if cast a cloud over his international efforts, Mr. Trump labelled Democrats leading the investigation as "very unpatriotic."

"Does it cast a cloud?" he said. "Well, if it does, then the Democrats have done a very great disservice to the country, which they have. They've wasted a lot of time."

Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly called on NATO members to increase their military spending, also said he was pleased that countries have increased their contributions and said he was looking forward to a "tremendous" few days.

Administration officials said Friday that nine members now meet or exceed the goal of spending 2% of GDP on defense and they expect it to rise to 18 countries by 2024.

At another event Tuesday, Mr. Stoltenberg said the military alliance was in good shape despite political rifts, citing the stationing of combat-ready troops from several nations on the alliance's eastern flank.

"Actions speak louder than words," Mr. Stoltenberg told a conference. "In NATO, we have bad rhetorics but extremely good substance."

-- James Marson contributed to this article

Write to Catherine Lucey at


(END) Dow Jones Newswires

December 03, 2019 07:58 ET (12:58 GMT)

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