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Morning News Brief: NATO Summit, Trade War Heats Up

Jul 11, 2018
Originally published on July 11, 2018 5:16 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The NATO summit in Brussels hadn't even officially started yet, and President Trump started lashing out at NATO allies.

NOEL KING, HOST:

Right. The president and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg were at breakfast today with TV cameras rolling, and President Trump started criticizing members of the NATO alliance.

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: You know, we're protecting Germany. We're protecting France. We're protecting everybody. And yet, we're paying a lot of money to protect. Now, this has been going on for decades.

KING: He was sitting facing Stoltenberg when he said that. Trump also singled out Germany for striking an energy deal with Russia.

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TRUMP: Now, if you look at it, Germany is a captive of Russia.

KING: All right, so a lot of provocative words here - how will European partners respond?

MARTIN: NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe is with President Trump in Brussels covering all this and joins us now.

Hey, Ayesha.

AYESHA RASCOE, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: So here we are, this nice scene - right? There's President Trump, Secretary of State Pompeo, Jim Mattis - they're all sitting at this nice table, Jens Stoltenberg across on the other side. They've got their orange juice, their nice plates ready for breakfast. And all of a sudden, the president directly criticizes NATO allies face-to-face against Jens Stoltenberg. I guess it's not a surprise, though. I mean, he's been saying this for days.

RASCOE: It's not a surprise, but this was really almost a dressing-down of Germany and of NATO. President Trump has made clear that he's very upset about the fact that most NATO countries are not spending 2 percent of their GDP on defense. Now, they - under the agreement reached by the NATO countries, they have until 2024 to reach that agreement. But (inaudible) he wants them to move faster, that's not good enough.

MARTIN: Although we should say, the European countries have been making progress. They have been trying, at least, to up their budgets.

RASCOE: Yes. And that's what Stoltenberg was pointing out and giving Trump credit for that, saying that the contributions to defense have been increasing. But President Trump still said it is not good enough, more must be done.

MARTIN: Let's talk about this particular criticism of Germany. I mean, the president there trying to target Angela Merkel for striking this energy deal with Russia. I mean, there's clearly no love lost between these two leaders.

RASCOE: No, not at all. And President Trump today - he really - basically was just saying that Germany is beholden to Russia. It was almost as if he was turning around this argument that has been used against him that he's been too kind to Russia - in his rhetoric at least. And President Trump is saying, no, it's not me; actually, Germany is too close to Russia. And so - and it gets to this larger idea that President Trump is kind of questioning the NATO alliance. And he keeps saying that the U.S. is helping Europe more with this alliance than this alliance is helping the U.S.

MARTIN: You say that this is a strategy the president might be employing to deflect criticism of his own upcoming summit with Vladimir Putin. I mean, it is no secret that NATO allies do not like the idea of the American president cozying up to Vladimir Putin. And President Trump has talked for years now about wanting a closer relationship with Russia.

RASCOE: And things are kind of playing out the way critics were concerned that they would, where President Trump is bashing NATO and then talking up Putin and saying that that might be his easiest meeting. And that is not good for NATO when they want to show they're united.

MARTIN: Right. NPR's Ayesha Rascoe in Brussels for us.

Thanks, Ayesha.

RASCOE: Thank you.

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MARTIN: All right, so that's what's happening across the Atlantic Ocean. The Trump administration is ratcheting up the tension across the Pacific as well.

KING: Yep. The trade war with China is again - or maybe just still - heating up. The White House says it's going to consider tariffs on $200 billion more in Chinese goods. Now, that's on top of the $34 billion in goods taxed last week. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative has this list of products that includes everything from refrigerators to handbags.

MARTIN: All right, NPR's Rob Schmitz joins us now from Shanghai to talk about this. Hey, Rob.

ROB SCHMITZ, BYLINE: Good morning, Rachel.

MARTIN: So Beijing, the government there sent out this written response to these new tariffs, saying it was, quote, "shocked" by this move. Do you think China's government is really shocked? I mean, isn't that where we're at right now, this whole tit-for-tat tariffs thing?

SCHMITZ: Yeah. I think it's hard to be shocked by this when President Trump had already promised to slap additional tariffs on $400 billion worth of Chinese products if China retaliated to the administration's first round of tariffs last week, you know? But it's possible that Beijing was taking this threat with a grain of salt, knowing that President Trump sometimes is capable of exaggerating these types of things. And now that the president seems to be serious about at least part of that threat, Beijing is likely starting to see that, and they're not very happy about it.

MARTIN: Noel ticked off a couple of the products that are going to be targeted with these new tariffs. What else can you tell us?

SCHMITZ: Well, it's a pretty big list. It goes well beyond the sort of tightly focused targets from the first round of tariffs. The first round targeted Chinese industrial machinery and tech equipment. This round of tariffs, if they go through, will target Chinese food, clothing items that American consumers buy at big-box stores in the U.S. These include frozen pork, dozens of species of fish, fruits, vegetables. And then we go on to types of leather, handbags, sports bags, baseball gloves and all sorts of clothing. There are more than 6,000 types of Chinese products here, and the U.S. is proposing to slap 10 percent tariffs on all of them. And with hearings on these new U.S. tariffs scheduled for late August, they could be imposed as early as September.

MARTIN: So China sends a lot more exports to the U.S. than the U.S. sends the other way. So China can't fully respond in kind to the new tariffs. But does it have other ways of retaliating?

SCHMITZ: Yes, it does. You know, we saw a hint of how China's thinking about this in its response today. In a written statement, Beijing called on other countries to join China in fighting these new trade measures. And as we know, Trump's trade measures on Canada, the EU, Japan and others have already angered those countries. China knows this, of course, and is already - has very important trade relationships with all of these countries. So Beijing is calling on them to unite and fight back against the U.S. And should that happen, that would be the opposite result of what the Trump administration seemed to be hoping for when it began targeting Beijing's business practices in the first place.

MARTIN: What's going to change this dynamic, Rob?

SCHMITZ: Well, neither side has shown any sign of backing down. And, you know, I think the interesting thing here is that the U.S. and China is both saying that they're open for negotiations if the other side moves first. So waiting to see.

MARTIN: All right, NPR's Rob Schmitz. Thanks, Rob.

SCHMITZ: Thanks.

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MARTIN: OK. A court-ordered deadline for reuniting separated immigrant families came and went yesterday, mostly unfulfilled.

KING: Yeah, the Trump administration was under deadline to reunite about a hundred kids who were ages 5 and under. They were separated from their parents over the past two months. Federal officials scrambled. They rejoined about half of the families and promised to reunite the others as soon as possible. But there's an even bigger deadline looming here.

MARTIN: OK, we've got NPR's John Burnett with us from Austin. He covers immigration. Hey, John.

JOHN BURNETT, BYLINE: Hi, Rachel.

MARTIN: Why has the federal government missed this deadline?

BURNETT: Well, they say that it was a lot more difficult than they expected - that some of these parents they couldn't find, others were locked up in detention in state or federal custody, still others had been found guilty of criminal convictions. They said they would reunite 51 of them yesterday. And then Health and Human Services, HHS, which is responsible for the kids...

MARTIN: Yeah.

BURNETT: ...Says they have to make sure that some of the parents are the actual parents, make sure they're safe and fit to take custody of kids. But then to hear the government tell it, they made the deadline with flying colors. Here's Chris Meekins with Health and Human Services.

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CHRIS MEEKINS: HHS is complying with the court order to reunify children separated at the border from their parents. In fact, the judge has praised our progress and our focus on the safety of the children.

BURNETT: It's a bit self-congratulatory. In the hearing yesterday, Judge Dana Sabraw told the government it shouldn't have separated the kids in the first place; it needs to streamline the screening process to reunite them, and it needs to speed up the whole process. And if it misses any more deadlines, he wants the DOJ lawyer back in his courtroom before the bench.

MARTIN: So interesting - first off, something that strikes me - the same judge that he said has praised the government's progress actually had really harsh words to say. And then, John, what are the repercussions? I mean, are there any repercussions for the federal government missing this deadline?

BURNETT: Well, not yet anyhow. Judge Sabraw is being very understanding. He believes the government is acting in good faith. He said they're all rowing in the same direction with the ACLU which brought this lawsuit.

MARTIN: So no real repercussions. But now that the government has some semblance of a process, are they going to be able to move faster to do this?

BURNETT: You know, it's taken many hearings and enormous resources just to try and put a hundred kids back with their parents. So you know, HHS has brought on 230 extra people and created this incident command center. So now they're looking at a second deadline. The judge has given the government until July 26 to put about 2,000 more children together with their moms and dads, the older ones, from 5 to 17. That's just over two weeks from now - Herculean task.

KING: Right.

BURNETT: And I'm sure it will be more hearings and the government is going to ask for more extensions. Reporters asked President Trump about the whole reunifying imbroglio yesterday. Here's what he said.

MARTIN: We don't have that clip.

BURNETT: OK.

MARTIN: But basically, he said, tell people not to come to our country illegally. That's the solution. He wants this as a deterrent.

And just briefly, John, what happens to the families once they've been reunited?

BURNETT: They're being reunited at third locations close to youth shelters. And then faith-based groups help them in their transportation and getting a hotel room and food and blankets.

MARTIN: OK.

BURNETT: And it's going to continue.

MARTIN: NPR's John Burnett in Austin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.