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News Brief: Trump And EU Ease Trade Tensions, Family Separation Update


Yesterday at the White House, something of a cease-fire in the U.S.-EU trade fight was announced.


Yeah. President Trump and the president of the European Commission - his name is Jean-Claude Juncker - they stood together in the Rose Garden and laid out the terms of this tentative truce. One of the big ones - Europe will now start buying more American soybeans. And neither side will impose new tariffs - at least, for now. Here's Jean-Claude Juncker.


JEAN-CLAUDE JUNCKER: As long as we are negotiating, we hold off further tariffs, and we reassess existing tariffs on steel and aluminum.

MARTIN: The announcement came a day after President Trump announced a $12 billion bailout package for farmers who have taken a financial hit because of his protectionist trade policies. Today, President Trump heads to Iowa - obviously, a major agricultural state. He's going to try to convince voters there to stick with him.

KING: NPR's Sarah McCammon is with us right now in studio.

Good morning, Sarah.


KING: All right. So there are some concrete steps, yes, that came out of yesterday's meeting, but President Trump's attitude toward trade is always shifting, and his policies often follow. So is this a real agreement or is this just, like, a lull in hostility?

MCCAMMON: Maybe a bit of both. So as we heard, Europe is going to buy more soybeans and also liquid natural gas, but that's something that's not really new. It's something European leaders have been talking about for a while. This agreement also will work toward zero tariffs on certain industrial goods and services, and work to reform the World Trade Organization to prevent intellectual property theft - so some concrete steps here. We'll see where it goes.

KING: The big losers so far in this trade dispute have been American farmers. They're getting hit because of the tariffs, because of the conflict with the European Union, but also because of the conflict with China. Many of those farmers are Trump supporters. Do we have a sense of whether they're sticking with him?

MCCAMMON: Right. I mean, there's a big overlap between rural America, agricultural America and a lot of Trump's base, a lot of red states. Farmers rely heavily on trade, though. A lot of those products they grow end up being sold abroad, so they have been feeling the effects of these tensions with China, with the EU. Here is Nebraska farmer Bill Armbrust. He told the AP that these trade tensions are interfering with his planning.


BILL ARMBRUST: We put out plans for five years, 10 years down the road, and what we're looking at right now is probably a large drag on the market for the next five years.

MCCAMMON: So a lot of concerns about unpredictability there, but the president has again and again said to farmers, stay with me here; trust me; you're going to feel some pain at first, but ultimately, this'll be great.

KING: And ultimately, the EU has agreed to buy more U.S. soybeans, and the federal government is proposing this $12 billion aid package to farmers. Are they in the clear?

MCCAMMON: Not necessarily. It may be comforting that trade tensions with Europe at least aren't going to escalate, but it doesn't address that big issue of the fight with China, which is a huge market for soybeans and lots of other U.S. products. You know, we've heard concerns from Republican members of Congress, like Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, and others who have said that this ultimately undercuts the whole idea of free trade that a lot of farmers rely on.

KING: Sarah, just quickly - the president will be in eastern Iowa today. This is an area that went for him in 2016? Can he hold on to support there?

MCCAMMON: Well, he does have to think about the politics here. And while it went for him in 2016, this is an area that is strongly historically Democratic and then flipped - so a lot of political tensions to think about as he heads to the Midwest today.

KING: NPR's Sarah McCammon. Thank you.

MCCAMMON: Thank you.

KING: All right. Now let's take a look at how this is playing in Europe. Reporter Teri Schultz is on the line from Brussels via Skype.

Hi, Teri.


KING: All right, so here in the U.S., we're seeing this as having taken a step back from the brink of a potentially very serious trade war. How is this being viewed in Europe?

SCHULTZ: Well, I think there's definitely a lot of relief, but also skepticism because, you know, what was actually achieved may not be such a huge step back from what's actually already happened. There was no pledge to remove the tariffs that President Trump has put on European steel and aluminum. That's 25 percent on steel, as we've been discussing. And without that, I think that Europe is going to remain very nervous still that perhaps there won't be a difference on the ground. These tariffs have been not just hurtful economically but also insulting for Europe. The - you know, the U.S.' strongest allies and NATO are being referred to as a national security threat. So I think that people are very much waiting to see the results, to see whether this working group that's going to be set up can make some actual progress.

So yes, a lot of relief that the optics are better - you've got President Trump tweeting a picture of him being kissed on the cheek by Jean-Claude Juncker, which he's famous for doing. But, you know, Trump is tweeting that, obviously, the EU and the White House love each other, which is considerably different from two weeks ago, where he was seen here yelling across the table at the NATO secretary-general - so a lot of relief that things seem to be smoothing out personally, at least.

KING: Was this a win for Jean-Claude Juncker? Is he now the man who sort of tamed President Trump?

SCHULTZ: I think this is a win for Juncker. It couldn't be seen as a loss - that's for sure - because he walked out, and there was some personal warmth between the two men. I mean, Jean-Claude Juncker's partner, the European Council president, Donald Tusk, has had very barbed remarks toward President Trump and his remarks about Europe, so I think that this is definitely a win for a man who was referred to a week ago as, you know, the U.S.' largest foe. And that's not nothing.

But again, you know, the - Europe remains very cautious about President Trump, and they're going to be looking for tangible results from this so-called agreement yesterday. And with - excuse me - without a reduction in the tariffs, without an ironclad promise not to impose further tariffs on the European car industry, I think that people are still going to remain skeptical.

KING: Reporter Teri Schultz in Brussels. Thank you, Teri.

SCHULTZ: You're welcome.


KING: All right. Today is the deadline for the federal government to reunite kids who were separated from their parents at the border. That deadline was ordered by a court.

MARTIN: Yeah, and today, the federal government is going to miss that deadline. The separations came as part of the Trump administration's zero tolerance immigration policy, of course. There are hundreds of children who are still being held apart from their families right now. And the judge overseeing the case says as many as 463 parents may have been deported from the U.S. without their kids.

KING: Reporter Emma Platoff of the Texas Tribune has been covering this story.

Good morning, Emma.

EMMA PLATOFF: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

KING: So the big question here is, why did the government not meet this deadline? It was ordered by a court. That sounds quite serious.

PLATOFF: Well, let's back up a minute. I think we won't have final numbers until this evening, but based on the government's own data, as you say, it's nearly impossible for them to make this deadline. That's because of their own actions. As you say, almost 500 parents have likely been deported - that the government said at a court hearing earlier this week, they can't even confirm whether they've been deported. There are some 200 more parents released somewhere into the United States, making them difficult to locate. So it's going to be pretty hard to reunite those parents with their kids by end of day today.

KING: All right. Well, going beyond that, let's say you're a kid whose parents have been deported and you can't be reunited today. What happens to you?

PLATOFF: For now...

KING: Is the government looking for those people?

PLATOFF: It's not entirely clear yet. Let's look at - you know, the last time the government had this deadline, July 10, was for reuniting kids under 5. What happened then was that about half of those kids were reunited by the deadline. The rest, the government declared ineligible, and we haven't seen much movement from them on what'll happen with those reunifications. So I think it will be a similar pattern here.

KING: OK - so the same as with the very small children, probably with the older children. Why are there not repercussions for the government missing this deadline?

PLATOFF: Lawyers like to joke, you know, the federal courts don't have a standing army. I think that as we've seen in this whole issue so far, the biggest check on the Trump administration has been public attention. This is an issue that's really moved thousands, millions of Americans, and I think that's going to be what continues to put the pressure on.

KING: And so the kids who haven't been reunited with their parents yet, they are being held where? They're in foster care facilities, detention facilities - where are they?

PLATOFF: Yeah, but most of them are in federally run shelters, like the renovated Walmart in Brownsville, Texas. Some of them may have been released to other sponsors in the United States. That could be relatives, if they have them here.

KING: You mentioned that it's been hard to pin down a number on how many children are still without their parents. What do we know about numbers? And why has that number been so hard to pin down?

PLATOFF: The number as of Tuesday evening is just over a thousand. I think...

KING: Just over a thousand kids who are still not reunited with their families.

PLATOFF: One thousand and twelve (ph) have been reunited as of Tuesday...


PLATOFF: ...With a few hundred more cleared. I think we're expecting about 1,600 to be reunited today by the deadline.

KING: Oh, that is very - or that's a huge number in a single day. How are they pulling that off?

PLATOFF: There has been a lot of chaos on the ground, as all we know. Kids have been moved around over the country over the last several days. But even the difference from Monday to Tuesday, for example, was about 150 more reunifications that happened. So the government is moving quickly, at least in the cases where it can locate the parents.

KING: Sixteen hundred kids in the course of a single day - that really does indicate that the government is trying to move very quickly. Reporter Emma Platoff is with the Texas Tribune. Emma, thank you so much.

PLATOFF: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MECCA:83 SONG, "2AM SAMBA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon worked for Iowa Public Radio as Morning Edition Host from January 2010 until December 2013.
Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.
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