WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump responded Thursday to European Council President Donald Tusk's criticism that he's been an unreliable partner, telling reporters the European Union has been "terrible" to the U.S. on trade and "they can call me all sorts of names."
During a meeting with the leader of NATO, Trump addressed a question from a reporter about Tusk's recent comment that, given the U.S. president's recent decisions, "someone could even think, 'with friends like that, who needs enemies?'"
Tusk tweeted Wednesday that thanks to Trump, "we realize that if you need a helping hand, you will find one at the end of your arm."
Trump aired his longstanding complaints about the U.S. trade deficit with Europe and trade barriers for U.S. agriculture and automakers.
"We lost $151 billion dealing with the European Union. So they can call me all sorts of names, and if I were them I'd call me names also, because it's not going to happen any longer," Trump said as he sat next to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
Trump has vexed Europeans with his threats to impose tariffs on EU steel and aluminum exports and with his decision to withdraw from an agreement aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons, which the EU has supported as critical to security around the globe.
Tusk made his remarks about the U.S. president's reliability before he chaired a meeting in Bulgaria of the 28 leaders whose countries make up the world's biggest trading bloc.
Trump said he knew both Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker very well, telling reporters, "Say hello to Jean-Claude."
Looking ahead to the annual NATO summit, Trump and Stoltenberg discussed their efforts to push NATO countries to increase their defense spending. Stoltenberg told Trump his lobbying campaign is "really having an impact" on defense spending within the alliance.
Trump asked the NATO head if he would give him "credit for that," prompting Stoltenberg to point to Trump's leadership on the issue.
Trump has pushed fellow NATO leaders to increase their military budgets to meet a benchmark of 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense annually. The two leaders were also expected to discuss troop training efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq. NATO is holding its July summit at its Brussels headquarters.
Trump and Stoltenberg had been expected to hold a joint news conference, but the two leaders instead took questions during appearances before journalists in the Oval Office and the White House Cabinet Room.
Associated Press writer Jill Colvin contributed to this report.