Donald Trump, the author of Art of the Deal, has apparently revealed himself to be ignorant of how multinational trade agreements work.
The US president is believed to be keen on pursuing a trade deal with the European Union after discussing the matter with German chancellor, Angela Merkel.
In a story about how a post-Brexit Britain has been pushed behind the EU in the queue to secure a deal with the US, details emerged about how Trump initially tried to strike an individual deal with Germany.
The story is a headache for the UK as it looks to navigate its exit from the EU, and secure a strong deal with its closest ally, the US.
But, according to The Times, Trump tried to circumvent the European Union and cut a bilateral trade deal with Germany instead.
When Merkel refused the first time, he is believed to have asked 10 more times.
“You can’t do a trade deal with Germany, only the EU,’” a senior German official told the newspaper.
“On the eleventh refusal, Trump finally got the message, ‘Oh, we’ll do a deal with Europe then,’” the official added.
Merkel was forced to explain to Trump that he must instead negotiate with the EU in its entirety, according to the report.
Merkel also said to her own cabinet members that Trump only had “very basic misunderstandings” regarding the “fundamentals” of the EU and multinational trade agreements.
A source close to the White House was quoted as saying that there had been a “realisation” in the Trump administration that a trade deal with the EU — allowing the tariff-free exchange of goods and services — was more important to US interests than a post-Brexit deal with Britain.
Merkel has said she is “very encouraged” that a US-EU trade deal would go ahead.
Merkel, speaking at the opening of the 70th annual Hannover Messe trade fair, said Germany was opposed to protectionism and trade barriers.
“I also feel very encouraged by my visit to the United States that negotiations between the EU and the United States on a free trade agreement … are also being looked at,” she said.
Merkel did not mention the exchange with Trump, and added that the EU’s first priority was to complete work on a deal with Japan.
In an interview with The Times in January Trump said that he wanted to have a trade deal with Britain done “quickly and done properly” because it was “good for both sides”.