EU ‘ready to respond’ to US in Airbus/Boeing row

The US threatens the EU with new tariffs if the EU does not end subsidies to Boeing and Airbus. (Reuters pic)

WASHINGTON: French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire warned on Friday that Europe was ready to hit back at any US tariffs over Airbus subsides as he pleaded for an “amicable solution” to the long-running dispute.

“If we were to be hit again by unjustified and unjustifiable US sanctions, Europe would be ready to respond in a united and strong way,” the minister said after his meeting with his US counterpart Steven Mnuchin.

“All this would be bad for growth and bad for American and European prosperity,” he said at a news conference on the sidelines of the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

“We must avoid this … On the basis of the WTO’s conclusions, it seems to me that the voice of wisdom is to reach an amicable agreement between the United States and Europe on a final settlement of the Airbus-Boeing case,” he said, adding that the case has been going on for far too long.

Le Maire had already pleaded on Tuesday for an amicable solution. And on Friday, he met US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and top White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow.

“It was constructive and frank but also difficult and tense,” said a French official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“Still, the talks were useful to clear up misunderstandings,” the person said, adding that participants had raised the subject of impeding new French taxes on tech companies, including US giants.

USTR did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

US President Donald Trump on Monday threatened the European Union with new tariffs if it did not end subsidies to Airbus, at the risk of reviving a fragile trade truce.

This was another step in a 14-year conflict between Boeing and Airbus where the US and EU accuse each other at the World Trade Organization (WTO) of providing illegal state aid to their respective aeronautical champions.

The EU had immediately warned that “in the parallel dispute over Boeing”, it also intended to “take prompt action” in retaliation.

According to several European sources on Friday, it will make public on Wednesday a list of American products likely to be taxed up to €20 billion.

But it will be left to a WTO-appointed arbitrator to determine the amount of retaliation duties, which will be less than the 20 billion.

In 2012, “the EU had requested the WTO to authorize US$12 billion in countermeasures,” a commission source told AFP.

“The EU will now await the decision of the WTO appointed arbitrator regarding the final amount,” the source added.