EU weighing all options in US plane dispute, trade chief says

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom speaks at conference at the French economy ministry in Paris November 16, 2018. — AFP pic
EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom speaks at conference at the French economy ministry in Paris November 16, 2018. — AFP pic

BRUSSELS, Oct 1 — The European Union is considering all possible responses to tariffs the United States may impose this month in a two-way dispute over aircraft subsidies, the EU trade chief said today.

The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has found that both European planemaker Airbus and its US rival Boeing received billions of dollars of illegal subsidies in a pair of cases that have run for 15 years.

The Geneva-based body is expected in the coming days to announce the level of trade sanctions the United States can impose over Airbus. A similar ruling for the EU in the Boeing case is expected early in 2020, giving Washington a head start.

“We are exploring all kinds of areas where we could react, but until and if the American tariffs kick in we are prioritising a negotiated solution,” EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told a news conference. “The EU will not do something that is not compliant with the WTO.”

The EU cannot retaliate immediately to any US tariffs in the case, as it did following what it considered unlawful US tariffs on metal imports in 2018.

The clearest response is to wait until a pronouncement in the parallel Boeing case. However, the EU might seek to revive an existing right to hit US$4 billion (RM16.8 billion) of US imports in a WTO dispute over US tax breaks for exports, even though the two sides settled in 2006.

Malmstrom declined to comment specifically on that possibility.

“We’re looking to all options and there are some cases where the (WTO) appellate body has judged, as late as this spring, that the US is still not complying with old cases,” she said, in an apparent reference to a WTO finding on Boeing subsidies.

“We’re looking at everything. It doesn’t mean that we will use these possibilities, but everything is on the table,” she told reporters after a meeting of EU trade ministers in Brussels.

People familiar with the case say the WTO’s three-person tribunal is expected to award the United States the right to target US$7.5 billion of EU imports, a record for the 24-year-old watchdog.

Washington has drawn up a list of US$25 billion from which it will pick targets from aircraft and aerospace parts to wine, cheese and luxury goods. The EU has its own list of US$20 billion of US products it could target in the Boeing case. — Reuters

Source: The Malay Mail Online

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