The European Commission’s President won’t be able to start formal negotiations without a vote from the 28 European Council members but is hoping to “find a solution” to the tensions that have all but wrecked US-EU trade relations.
European Union trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom will be joining her boss on the Washington trip and is promising the Brussels delegation will think “outside the box” in order to smooth over the bloc’s patchy relationship with the US President.
Mr Juncker leaves the Belgian capital on Tuesday before his meeting with Mr Trump at the White House for a discussion which has been in the making since the recent G7 summit in Quebec, Canada.
At the tense meeting, the EU’s most senior official was branded a “brutal killer” by the US President, who has since described the Brussels bloc as a “foe”.
A Commission spokesman said: “It is an opportunity to de-dramatise any potential tensions on trade and to engage into an open, constructive dialogue with our American partners.”
Since June, tempers have frayed after Mr Trump ignored a Brussels exemption request and continued to impose costly tariffs on steel and aluminium imports into the US.
In response, the EU imposed a raft of retaliatory trade taxes on a list of US exports that target a number of the country’s most famous brands – Levi jeans, Harley Davidson motorcycles and bourbon whiskey.
EU trade teams continue to draw up larger lists that could also be included in the retaliatory trade strike on US products if Mr Juncker returns from Washington empty-handed.
In a speech, last week, Mr Juncker said: “We will continue to respond toe-to-toe to provocations.
“All efforts to divide Europeans are in vain.”
Berlin has attempted to influence Mr Juncker’s Washington strategy because of Mr Trump’s threat to target the German automotive industry with even more tariffs. In a recent tweet, the US President said he would slap 20 percent tariffs on European carmakers, insisting his country should “build them here”.
Germans in Brussels have urged the Commission to reopen trade negotiations with the US, but the request has been met with a muted response by member states who believe it would be foolish to engage with Mr Trump because of his desire to only secure “win-lose” deals in Washington’s favour.
Daniel Caspary, a German MEP from Mr Juncker’s European People’s Party, said his boss should resume negotiations on the controversial TTIP EU-US trade pact.
Trying to inject a humour into the bleak German quandary, Mr Caspary recommended renaming the deal to the “Tremendous Trump Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Speaking to German newspaper Welt, he added “Maybe it helps.”
A leader of German industry has said Washington needs to de-escalate its rhetoric because of the importance to his country’s car industry to US jobs.
Dieter Kempf, president of the powerful Federation of German Industries, said: “Commission President Juncker and US President Trump must apply the emergency brake in the trade dispute.
“For this, Washington needs to de-escalate the rhetoric. The tariffs imposed under the guise of national security should be removed.”
“It is important to establish a common understanding of the facts and regain trust,” he added while calling on Mr Juncker to spell out the danger Mr Trump is putting US jobs in by targeting the European automotive sector.
The German car industry employs more than 118,000 people in the US, with 60 percent of its production exported from the US to other countries.
Mr Trump’s global trade crackdown has come in the shape of his “America first” policy, where he aims to stop outside powers from having an easy ride while operating in the United States.
The threats have contributed to a huge slump in the share prices of BMW and Volkswagen. VW shares are down 25 percent from their peak this year and BMW 20 percent.