EU Presses Biden for Truce on Tariffs Over Metals, Plane Trade

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The European Union stepped up a call on the U.S. for a suspension of each side’s tariffs over transatlantic trade in metals and aircraft.

EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis urged President Joe Biden’s administration to remove U.S. duties on European steel and aluminum based on controversial national-security grounds, signaling the bloc would end its retaliatory levies in return.

Dombrovskis also repeated an EU offer to cancel European tariffs on a range of American goods including Boeing Co. planes should the Biden administration revoke U.S. duties on European products including Airbus SE aircraft. These tit-for-tat levies were authorized by the World Trade Organization as a result of illegal subsidies to both plane makers.

“It’s very important that we put those bilateral trade irritants behind us and really concentrate on the broader international trade agenda,” Dombrovskis told an online event on Monday organized by the German Marshall Fund.

The EU is hoping the new Biden administration will work quickly to improve transatlantic commercial ties damaged by four years of the “America First” agenda of former President Donald Trump. The 27-nation bloc also wants Washington the unblock the selection of a new WTO chief by supporting Nigeria’s candidate, who emerged as the favorite among the body’s members.

The European Commission’s trade service has advised President Ursula von der Leyen to seek a temporary freeze on the tariffs and to put that proposal to Biden when the two leaders speak over the phone, according to a person familiar with the strategy.

Sabine Weyand, the commission’s director-general for trade, said in mid-January that both sides have a chance to reach an agreement on aircraft subsidies within six months and that ending the 17-year dispute would be easier were each side to halt its retaliatory duties against the other.

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