US President Donald Trump leaves after holding a press conference ahead of his early departure from the G7 Summit on June 9, 2018 in La Malbaie, Canada. 

President Donald Trump called the European Union, a longtime American ally, “possibly just as bad as China” when it comes to trade in an interview with Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo in an exclusive interview Sunday morning.

Trump slammed European countries for what he said are unfair trade practices and defended his decision to levy them and other allies with hefty steel and aluminium tariffs.

“The European Union is possibly as bad as China, just smaller. It’s terrible what they do to us,” he said.

In 2017, the U.S. ran a $101 billion trade deficit in goods and services with the EU, compared with an approximate $336 billion gap with China.

Bartiromo had asked the president whether the US should team up with its allies to try to counter China’s protectionist trade policies, which Trump is currently targeting with $50 billion in tariffs, with more likely to follow. But he disagreed with the basic premise, saying Europeans “treat us very badly, they treat us very poorly.”

“Take a look at the car situation: They send a Mercedes in, we can’t send our cars in,” he said. “Look what they do to our farmers. They don’t want our farm products. In all fairness, they have their farmers, so they want to protect their farmers. But we don’t protect ours and they protect theirs.”

Trump’s administration has already placed tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the EU, Canada, and Mexico — America’s first-, third-, and fourth-largest trading partners, respectively — and has floated the idea of targeting the European automobile industry next.

Those actions have led to serious schisms in America’s international relationships: Allies have struck back with tariffs of their own, even as they lament the upending of traditional partnerships.

To Trump, allies are only allies if the money’s all square

Though it might seem strange to aggressively target the US’s major trading partners over slights — perceived or real — it’s not the first time the president has taken a transactional approach to America’s oldest allies.

If you want to be America’s ally, in Trump’s book, you better make sure you’ve paid up — whether that’s buying American goods or upping your defense spending.

He routinely brings up the cost of joint military exercises and questions why partner countries don’t pay to host US troops around the world — two actions which benefit US national security. Trump also regularly criticizes NATO countries for not spending enough on defense, and just recently in the run up to the alliance’s biannual summit sent letters to at least several members hitting those points again.

Being an international power and participating in a global economy both come with costs. And in Trump’s mind, they both appear to be odious. Right after pointing out the US trade deficit with the EU on Sunday, he griped, “On top of that, we spend a fortune on NATO to protect them.”

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