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At rally in North Dakota, Trump says that the EU was 'set up to take advantage' of the US

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U.S. President Donald Trump greets supporters during a campaign rally at Scheels Arena on Wednesday in Fargo, North Dakota. Trump held a campaign-style "Make America Great Again" rally with thousands in attendance. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump told a crowd of supporters that the European Union “was set up to take advantage of the United States.” He also promised to tax Mercedes and BMW imports from the EU. Trump called out “free traders,” saying that not putting tariffs on EU products was “not free trade, that's stupid trade.”

Trump made these comments during a rally for Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) on Wednesday in Fargo, North Dakota.

What happened at rally?

“Sometimes our worst enemies are our so-called friends or allies,” Trump told the crowd.

We're gonna get along with China, and we're gonna get along with the European Union, which has barriers for our farmers and our people selling product into the European Union. Last year, with the European Union, and we love the European Union — we love the countries of the European Union — but the European Union, of course, was set up to take advantage of the United States. To attack our piggy bank, right?

And you know what? We can't let that happen. Last year, with the European Union, we lost $151 billion on trade. We had a trade deficit of $151 billion, because they send the Mercedes in, they send the BMWs in, they send their products in, we send things to them they say "no thank you, we don't take your product." That's not the way it works. And for all those free traders out there, that's not free trade, that's stupid trade. That's stupid trade.

The crowd cheered in response. Trump said that the EU charges the U.S. “many, many times what we charge them.” He added:

I said look, if you're not gonna treat us fairly, if you're not gonna treat our workers, our companies, our farmers fairly, if you're not going to take our farm product like we take your farm product, then we're going to tax all of those beautiful Mercedes Benzes that are coming in, and we're gonna tax BMWs that are coming in, and we're already taxing, through tariffs, their steel and their aluminum. And by the way, do you see what's happening with our steel industry in the last four months? It's booming again, folks. It's booming."

Trump cited the opening of the new steel plants, solar panels, and washing machine factories after his tariffs. The tariffs have helped those industries, although the rising prices of steel have negatively impacted other industries, including farming and nail manufacturing.

Trump cited former Presidents William McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt as presidents “who liked the idea of foreign countries, when they come in and want to take our wealth, they have to pay for it. They don't take it.” While in Congress, McKinley had pushed for the passage of a 50-percent protective tariff that bears his name. The tariffs ended up raising costs on products for Americans, resulting in Republican President Benjamin Harrison losing to Democrat Grover Cleveland (who was also the president before Harrison) after his own party tried to primary him.

What is a trade deficit?

A trade deficit occurs when a country imports more than it exports. Trump frequently cites the trade deficit we have with specific countries as a justification for instituting tariffs. Economists are divided on whether or not trade deficits are harmful.

What else?

Trump also took a moment to brag about his own intelligence, a recurring theme throughout his campaign and presidency.

“I am the smartest person. I'm smarter than anybody. You know why?” he said. “...I was good at getting it done.”

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