EU chief trade negotiator Phil Hogan believes Washington’s decision to delay increasing tariffs on European-made Airbus planes till mid March opens a “window of opportunity” for a negotiated settlement.
Washington announced earlier this month that it would hold off the planned 5 per cent increase - from 10 to 15 per cent - till March 18, 2020. Hogan told the Financial Times that the 30 day suspension was a signal that the US is looking for a trade deal.
“They have given us 30 days of suspension of those tariffs on Airbus products which will give us that chance hopefully to make some sort of an agreement,” he said. “We're in a better place than we were some weeks ago . . . With political goodwill on both sides we can do a lot in a short period of time.”
Washington slapped on the 10 per cent tariff in October after the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruled that the EU had been illegally subsidising Airbus. It had previously found the US guilty of allowing tax breaks for Boeing, its own major airline manufacturer.
The US has also introduced tariffs on a range of other EU goods, including wine, cheese and coffee, and has threatened to slap charges on European cars.
The tariffs threaten a prolonged trade war between the two economic powerhouses, just weeks after tensions between the US and China eased with the signing of a Phase One trade deal that ended nearly two years of economic hostility.
The hope in Europe is that the US will pull back from an all out trade war because of its potential economic impact before the presidential election in November.
But Hogan said that the EU would not pursue a deal at any cost, and that food safety standards and other regulations would not be on the table.
“I want to say very, very straightforwardly that the European Union is not going to compromise on our food standards, our environment standards or our workplace standards. I've said this from day one and we continue to repeat it,” he said.