EU ready to impose tariffs on several US products

Move is part of long-running Boeing-Airbus row in which US has taxed European goods

The tariffs, set to hit US exports of planes and parts and a range of farm produce, would come into force on Tuesday.
The tariffs, set to hit US exports of planes and parts and a range of farm produce, would come into force on Tuesday.PHOTO: AFP

BRUSSELS • The European Union has pushed ahead with tariffs against several US imports as part of a long-running Boeing-Airbus row, despite hope for a trade truce following Mr Joe Biden's election.

Yesterday's decision was the latest twist in the 16-year trade battle over aircraft subsidies that turned increasingly sour under the protectionist instincts of US President Donald Trump.

Some had suggested Europe might delay the tit-for-tat levies after the victory of Mr Biden, who is to replace Mr Trump in January, and is seen as more sympathetic to Europe and more of a multilateralist on trade.

"The US imposed tariffs following the WTO ruling in the Airbus case," said the EU's top trade official, Mr Valdis Dombrovskis, ahead of a virtual meeting of the bloc's trade ministers.

"Now, we have a WTO ruling also in our Boeing case, allowing us to impose our tariffs and that's what we are doing," EU executive vice-president Dombrovskis said, referring to the World Trade Organisation.

Instead of hitting the pause button, Mr Dombrovskis urged Washington to pursue a comprehensive deal on aviation subsidies worldwide to end the row, saying: "As it has been stated on numbers of occasions from the EU side, we're ready to suspend or withdraw our tariffs any time when the US suspends or withdraws their tariffs."

Washington imposed punitive tariffs of 25 per cent on iconic EU products such as wine, cheese and olive oil and put a 15 per cent tariff on Airbus planes in March.

According to a list of targets seen by AFP, the EU is expected to impose tariffs on aircraft made in the United States, along with tractors, sweet potatoes, peanuts, frozen orange juice, tobacco, ketchup and Pacific salmon.

They are to take effect today, after being published in the EU's official journal later yesterday.

Mr Dombrovskis, Latvia's former prime minister, made his comments before the EU trade ministers discussed how Europeans can face up to challenges from both the US and China.

Reactions in Europe "have shown that there are great expectations after the election victory of Joe Biden", said German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, an ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

"The hope is that the US will return to multilateral approaches, also in trade," added the minister, whose export powerhouse Germany was the most exposed to Mr Trump's protectionist onslaught against Europe.

Meanwhile, Dr Merkel yesterday congratulated Mr Biden on winning the US presidential election, and called for the EU and US to work "side by side", but also said the EU must do more to provide for its own security.

She also held up Mr Biden, who was president Barack Obama's second-in-command, as an experienced leader who knows Germany and Europe well, stressing: "We are allies in Nato, we share fundamental values... and interests." She added: "America is and continues to be our most important ally, but it expects from us - and rightly so - more efforts to take care of our security."

Eager to move on from Mr Trump's critical view of Germany, Dr Merkel said Berlin, as part of the EU, and the US must work "side by side" to tackle Covid-19, global warming and terrorism, and to champion free trade.

Mr Trump previously threatened German automakers with high tariffs on cars imported into the US and criticised Berlin for not contributing enough to Nato.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 10, 2020, with the headline 'EU ready to impose tariffs on several US products'. Subscribe