Published: Sat, April 13, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

EU clears way for start of formal trade talks with U.S.

EU clears way for start of formal trade talks with U.S.

The plan follows a US threat to seek $11 billion in damages through duties on European goods ranging from helicopters to cheeses to counter state aid to Airbus SE.

Importantly, the U.S. has said it will wait for the WTO, which has already deemed the subsidies illegal, to rule this summer on the exact amount of retaliation allowed.

The threatened US tariffs are in response to subsidies received by aircraft maker Airbus and target a host of European products including helicopters, aircraft parts and gouda cheese.

"The EU is confident that the level of countermeasures on which the notice is based is greatly exaggerated". The Trump administration has been "sending some mixed signals about the World Trade Organization, but this action suggests they still value playing by the rules".

And the move comes at an increasingly hard moment for world trade, which is slowing partly because of concerns over Mr Trump's protectionist policies. And that's the problem hanging over the global economy, which the International Monetary Fund predicts will grow this year at its slowest rate since the aftermath of the global financial crisis a decade earlier.

A European Commission source said on Tuesday the level of proposed USA countermeasures was "greatly exaggerated", adding the amount of retaliation could only be determined by a World Trade Organization arbitrator. It will soon stop!' Trump said on Twitter.

The U.S. and EU have since July been negotiating how to scale back the tariffs, with Trump holding out the bigger threat of slapping tariffs on European cars - a huge industry in the region - should the negotiations not yield a result.

Germany is particularly apprehensive of possible US tariffs on vehicle imports.

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A meeting of ambassadors today gave the EU Commission clearance to negotiate with its counterparts in the U.S., sources told Reuters.

The Trump administration has not yet announced the additional duty rates. The EU is also one of the largest destinations for American-grown nuts.

Next week, a Japanese delegation is due in Washington to begin negotiations over a bilateral deal with the United States that American companies and farmers are clamoring for to make up for Trump's decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

European Council President Donald Tusk stated following the meeting that changes might be made to the political declaration on Brexit if necessary, but reaffirmed once again that the withdrawal agreement itself was not up for renegotiation.

However, the immediate consequences of Trump's remarks were unclear.

". The U.S. wants to pressure the European Union to engage in meaningful trade talks, but without having to apply the more painful measure of automotive tariffs", said Cailin Birch, global economist at The Economist Intelligence Unit.

The EC has repeatedly said it will not discuss tariffs or barriers to trade in farm products.

Both sides have won partial victories at the World Trade Organisation in claiming the other's planemaker received unlawful subsidies but disagree on the amount involved and whether each has complied with earlier WTO rulings.

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