The European Union (EU) has said it will act “swiftly and appropriately” if US President Donald Trump were to restrict the bloc’s trade in any way, as he suggested in a recent TV interview.

Speaking to the UK’s ITV channel at the weekend, Trump said the EU had been “very unfair” on US exporters and in particular that “it’s very, very tough” for US products to access the EU market. He said it could “morph into something very big” that would “turn out to be very much to [the EU’s] detriment.”

Press reports note that in 2016 the 28-member bloc took in nearly 19% of US exports, including US$304bn in goods. It is possible Trump was not speaking of any particular EU policies but instead alluding to the US goods trade deficit with the EU, which totalled $143bn in 2016.

In response to Trump’s comments at a recent press conference in Brussels, European Commission spokesperson Margaritis Schinas is understood to have told reporters the EU was ready to hit back if its importers were made to suffer.

“For us trade policy is not a zero sum game. It is not about winners and losers. We here in the European Union believe that trade can and should be win-win,” he said.

“We also believe that while trade has to be open and fair it also has to be rules-based. The European Union stands ready to react swiftly and appropriately in case our exports are affected by any restrictive trade measures by the United States.”

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By GlobalData

The comments build on those made last summer between the EU and the US over trade. EU Commissioner for Trade, Cecilia Malmström had warned that, should such a “trade war” between the US and the EU be waged, it would be “extremely unfortunate” for the whole world.