BRUSSELS, Belgium (AFP) — The European Union’s top trade official on Monday said Europe would fight until the very last moment to dissuade the United States from imposing tariffs in retaliation for illegal EU subsidies to Airbus.
European nations are scrambling to prepare a response to U.S. tariffs on billions of dollars worth of EU goods, including cheese and wine, that the World Trade Organization formally approved on Monday.
Set to enter into force on Friday, the European Union hopes to find common ground before then to avoid escalating trade tensions that risk further battering economies across the globe.
With “still four days to go,” European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom said that Brussels had not lost hope that Washington could be persuaded to hold fire.
“Until the very last hour we will keep on pushing the Americans to see if they can freeze the tariffs,” Malmstrom said.
“I recently wrote a letter to (U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer) to say again that even if, yes, they are allowed to impose those tariffs, it doesn’t mean that they have to,” she said.
A WTO arbitrator this month gave Washington the green light to slap tariffs on $7.5 billion worth of EU imports, a landmark moment in the 15-year legal battle between Airbus and U.S. plane-maker Boeing.
In the immediate line of fire are civilian aircraft from Britain, France, Germany and Spain — the countries that formed Airbus — which will cost 10% more when imported to the United States as of Friday, Oct. 18.
The tariffs also target consumer products such as French wine, which Trump had vowed to take aim at in recent months. Wine from France, Spain and Germany will face 25% tariffs.
Cheeses from across Europe will also cost 25% more for U.S. consumers, as will “Made in England” suits, cashmere sweaters and pajamas.
Instead of tariffs, EU officials are trying to reach a negotiated settlement with the United States to avoid escalating trade tensions that risk battering economies across the globe.
If those negotiations fail, Brussels will get the chance to impose its own WTO-approved tariffs on U.S. products after persuading WTO judges that Boeing had also benefited from illegal U.S. government subsidies.
An arbitrator’s award in that case is due in 2020.
© Agence France-Presse