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Trump helped Europe lose its illusions - Tusk

Tusk even compared the US administration to Europe’s traditional foes Moscow and Beijing

The discussions, which officials said were long but with "no real controversy", stuck to the issues of the day and avoided a wider questioning of the EU's relations under Trump, despite Tusk's tough words.

At the outset of a summit of European leaders whose agenda items, point by point, have to do with the flames of crises that many Europeans see as ignited by President Donald Trump, Tusk ripped into what he called "the capricious assertiveness of the American administration" over issues including Iran, Gaza, trade tariffs and North Korea.

If it gets the exemption, the source said the European Union was ready to take steps including "voluntary regulatory cooperation" with the U.S., and working on reform of the World Trade Organisation, after Trump claimed the USA was unfairly treated.

On trade, the EU leaders agreed to "strengthen" the European Commission as it seeks to negotiate a permanent exemption from U.S. tariffs on metal and aluminium that are due to take effect on June 1, the source said.

"Here again, unity is our greatest strength and my objective is simple - we stick to our guns", Tusk told a news conference before the dinner discussion. Therefore US tariffs can not be justified on the basis of national security.

Options for the EU to protect European companies from negative consequences of the USA decision were also needed, Tusk said. Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate change accord and the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran threaten Europe's own foreign policy, which was long complementary to Washington's. "It is absurd to even think that the European Union could be a threat to the United States".

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The debate will continue among trade ministers on Tuesday.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron will "present their assessment of the situation" to their colleagues, he said. But Europeans are increasingly exasperated by the way Trump is steering USA policy, objecting not only to his stances but also to what they say is erratic policymaking that switches on the whim of Fox News programmers.

It will notify the World Trade Organization of its potential plans by Friday. Germany is Europe's biggest exporter to the United States with more than 1 million jobs at stake. Negotiations proper could be years away.

"He's rubbing a lot of people the wrong way", the diplomat said. "We're not going to pay with a free trade treaty with something that is illegal in the first place".

They also agreed to "initiate work to protect European companies negatively affected by the USA decision", which involves Washington reimposing sanctions on Iran. "We want a permanent exemption and then we are ready to talk about how we can reciprocally reduce the barriers to trade", Merkel told reporters on Thursday.

However, a number of trade specialists in Brussels say that quotas on industrial goods are not allowed under WTO rules and that, in any case, the European Union demand is that no measures be imposed.

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