Congress

Trade rep targets EU hams, cheeses, olives and pasta for tariffs

Agency says it is waiting for WTO arbitrator’s ruling before next steps in long-running Airbus subsidy dispute

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer identified possible tariff targets in response to a possible World Trade Organization ruling against Airbus. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Agricultural goods and metal products topped a list of European Union goods targeted for possible trade countermeasures as the U.S. Trade Representative turned up the pressure in the Airbus subsidy dispute on Tuesday.

The USTR added 89 tariff categories with a value of $4 billion in a new list of potential targets for retaliatory tariffs, increasing the potential value of such imports by about 19 percent since it took public comment on May 15 and 16 on possible targets.

The new list includes frozen hams, various cheeses, olives and pasta, as well as a small group of minerals and a range of metal products, from cast iron pipes to copper plates and sheets.

[U.S., China to restart trade talks; farmers, Huawei may gain]

The USTR notice said any duties would be imposed only after an arbitrator appointed by the World Trade Organization decides on the extent that EU concessions don’t satisfy a finding that EU member nations broke WTO rules by providing launch aid and member state financing to Airbus.

“As stated in the April 12 notice, the final list will take into account the report of the WTO Arbitrator on the appropriate level of countermeasures to be authorized by the WTO,” the USTR notice said.

USTR first requested consultations on the Airbus subsidies in October 2004. An appellate panel confirmed in May 2011 that France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom had provided a range of subsidies.

“The Appellate Body found that the effect of the subsidies was to displace exports of Boeing single-aisle and twin-aisle LCA (large civil aircraft) from the European Union, Chinese, and Korean markets and Boeing single-aisle LCA from the Australian market,” the panel confirmed.

The USTR said witnesses at the May hearing suggested additional targets, and trade groups stressed that Section 301 trade action offered an opportunity to address long-standing but unrelated trade disputes with the EU, especially those involving agricultural and food products.

Section 301 of 1974 trade legislation authorizes the USTR to determine whether trading partners’ conduct denies U.S. rights under any trade agreement and take action, if warranted, to enforce those rights.

The Section 301 committee, led by USTR, will hold a hearing on the proposed list of goods on Aug. 5 at the U.S. International Trade Commission, with a July 24 deadline for submitting a request to testify. More than 40 people testified at the two-day May hearing, and more than 600 written comments were submitted.

A spokesman said the European Commission would have no comment on “internal U.S. procedure.”  He added that the commission is taking the “necessary steps” for action when the arbitrator hands down a decision on “retaliation rights” for U.S. subsidies to Boeing. 

“The EU remains open for discussions with the U.S., provided these are without preconditions and aim at a fair outcome,” the spokesman said.

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