When they met in April at the White House, President Donald Trump suggested to his French counterpart that France should quit the European Union and sign a bilateral trade deal with the US, The Washington Post reported Friday.
"Why don't you leave the EU?" he reportedly asked visiting President Emmanuel Macron, who was elected last year on a resolutely pro-European platform, the Post said, citing two European officials.
The tenor of the conversation was confirmed to AFP by a diplomatic source.
The US president has repeatedly attacked the EU, sharply denouncing what he considers its unfair trade practices, particularly regarding the auto industry, and the European grouping has become a favored target of his, in private and in public.
"The European Union, of course, was set up to take advantage of the United States," Trump said Wednesday during a campaign-style rally in the state of North Dakota.
Trump, who campaigned under the slogan "America First," has regularly assailed some of the world's major multilateral organizations, including NATO, that have been pillars of the trans-Atlantic relationship.
During the recent G7 summit in Canada, he reportedly told fellow leaders that the Atlantic alliance was "as bad as NAFTA," the North American Free Trade Agreement which he has threatened to abandon unless fellow members Canada and Mexico accept more favorable terms.
Against this background of extraordinarily strained relations, Trump is scheduled to take part July 11 and 12 in a NATO summit meeting in Brussels, before going on a few days later to meet with his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Helsinki.