With U.S. industry, U.S. agriculture, long-standing European trading partners and members of his own party all telling Mr. Trump to cool it, he did something he rarely does — listen. The “deal” the president trumpeted on Wednesday in the company of European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker was his face-saving off-ramp. It amounts to little more than a mutual promise to talk about reducing trade barriers on both sides of the Atlantic, and to impose no new ones in the meantime. Tariffs on industrial goods other than autos would be targeted for elimination. Europe embellished it with a pledge to buy more American soybeans, thus offsetting China’s tariffs on that product, and to import more U.S. natural gas in the distant future. Considering that the negotiating agenda Mr. Trump and Mr. Juncker sketched resembles the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that President Barack Obama tried to launch with Europe, you could almost say that all Mr. Trump has to show for his trade war with the European “foe” is a return to his predecessor’s policy, plus some beans.
Still, this is a positive development, because a negotiated mutual opening of markets would benefit the U.S. economy, if indeed Mr. Trump’s team can make it happen; because it avoids a worsening of global tensions; and, last but not least, because Mr. Trump did, however reluctantly, resist his worst instincts. We hope that some of the new pragmatism infuses talks on salvaging the free-trade agreement with Canada and Mexico.