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Irish butter, cheese and liqueurs among European goods hit with US tariffs

The US imposed duties on $7.5 billion worth of European goods due to the longstanding argument that Airbus receives unfair government subsidies.

Image: Shutterstock/TY Lim

NEW US TARIFFS take effect from today on a range of goods from Ireland and the rest of the European Union.

The Irish products affected include cheese, liqueurs, cordials, pork, yogurt, butter, fruit and mussels.

The tariffs, which took effect just after midnight in Washington, came after talks between European officials and US trade representatives failed to win a last-minute reprieve.

The US imposed tariffs on a record $7.5 billion in European goods after earlier this month the World Trade Organisation agreed with Washington’s longstanding argument that Airbus receives unfair government subsidies, which hurts American competitor Boeing.

In the line of fire are civilian aircraft from Britain, France, Germany and Spain – the countries that formed Airbus – which will now cost 10% more when imported to the US.

But the tariffs also target consumer products such as French wine, which Trump had vowed to attack in recent months. Wine from France, Spain and Germany will now face 25% tariffs.

Speaking in Washington hours before the tariffs were due to come into effect, France’s Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire warned the move would have serious repercussions.

“Europe is ready to retaliate, in the framework of course of the WTO,” he told reporters shortly after meeting with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund annual meetings.

“These decisions would have very negative consequences both from an economic and a political point of view.”

At a time when the global economy is slowing, “I think that our responsibility is to do our best to avoid that kind of conflict,” Le Maire said. 

The Europeans have long advocated negotiation over conflict and they themselves will be able to impose tariffs next year to punish the United States for subsidising Boeing.

‘Very hard’

The Europeans fear above all that Trump will impose heavy duties on imports of European cars around mid-November. 

This would be a serious blow for the German automotive sector in particular, even if giants such as Volkswagen or BMW also manufacture in the United States. 

“Our products are very hard to bring in (to Europe)” when Europeans easily import their cars into the United States, Trump said.

The Airbus-Boeing row is just one of several issues stoking transatlantic tensions that quickly descended into acrimony when Trump took office in 2017.

Trump embraced a protectionist agenda, slapping import duties on steel and aluminium from the EU and other allies, while also threatening tariffs on cars.

Trade groups in Europe such as winemakers, German tool manufacturers and whisky producers in Scotland have kept a clamour of protest, demanding Washington reverse tack.

The US leader and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker agreed in July 2018 to a ceasefire in the conflict to hold trade talks that have so far led nowhere.

The legal battle between Airbus and Boeing at the World Trade Organisation began in 2004 when Washington accused Britain, France, Germany and Spain of providing illegal subsidies and grants to support the production of a range of Airbus products.

A year later, the EU alleged that Boeing had received $19.1 billion worth of prohibited subsidies from 1989 to 2006 from various branches of the US government.

The two cases were then tangled up in a legal quagmire, with each side being given partial vindication after a long series of appeals and counter appeals.

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AFP

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