Relations have been troubled between the United States and the European Union lately, and President Trump tried to put fears of a fracturing alliance to bed with a single photo on Wednesday. He tweeted the picture after meeting with the EU president in Washington, D.C. about trade; the photo of Trump and Jean-Claude Juncker supposedly shows that the U.S. and EU "love each other."
Juncker is shown kissing Trump's cheek, a standard way of greeting people in some parts of Europe. "Obviously the European Union, as represented by @JunckerEU and the United States, as represented by yours truly, love each other!" Trump tweeted.
His description of the photo aligns with how the White House seems to be spinning the meeting: as a thawing between the United States and Europe. "A breakthrough has been quickly made that nobody thought possible!" he also tweeted on Wednesday. Later he added: "Great to be back on track with the European Union." Juncker has sounded similarly optimistic in his assessment of the encounter, and the two leaders put out a joint statement that celebrated "a new phase" for their alliance.
Trump's words on Wednesday were a step back from the aggressive stance he's recently taken towards the European Union. On Friday, he accused the EU of manipulating its currencies in a way that unfairly disadvantages the United States. He hit Europe with steel and aluminum tariffs earlier this spring; the EU replied with its own set of tariffs, to which Trump responded by threatening "tremendous retribution" with tariffs on the auto industry.
That's not to mention all the non-economic disagreements that have arisen between Europe and the United States since Trump entered office. The U.S. president has defied the EU's wishes in leaving the Paris Climate Agreement, exiting the Iran nuclear deal, and questioning the integrity of NATO.
The economic tensions, at least, did seem on course for improvement after Wednesday's meeting. Trump walked back his threat about auto tariffs, although the aluminum and steel taxes will stand for now (the joint statement says that "we also want to resolve" those eventually). The EU agreed to purchase more soybeans and liquefied natural gas from the United States. Both parties have promised to keep trade negotiations going, with the goal of lowering barriers, and to stop imposing additional barriers in the meantime.
Trump and Juncker's statement announces that the leaders agreed "to work together toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods." It also notes that the partners will "work to reduce barriers and increase trade in services, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, medical products, as well as soybeans."
The body language between the two presidents was scrutinized heavily on Wednesday, and some found it less warm than Trump wanted to convey with his tweets. The Independent noted that the U.S. president reached out for Juncker's hand and that the head of the EU declined to take it.
These small moments are, of course, minor, and it's impractical to read too much into them. Overall, the meeting seems to have been productive for the U.S.-EU relationship — but the proof can be found more in the leaders' agreement and less in Juncker's decision to greet Trump by kissing his cheek.