From cheese to helicopters: USA floats tariffs on $11bn of European Union products

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One in Washington D.C. U.S

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to members of the media on the South Lawn of the White House before boarding Marine One in Washington D.C. U.S

Donald Trump's White House has threatened to impose tariffs on European Union goods worth $11.2bn, including French cheese, wine and aircraft, in a move which would significantly escalate trade tensions between the world's biggest trading blocs.

The US trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, said that the case had been in litigation at the World Trade Organisation for 14 years and that "the time has come for action".

The statement added that the final amount it would seek in duties was subject to arbitration at the WTO, the result of which was expected in the summer.

A preliminary list of goods has been issued for public consultation.

The EU imposed retaliatory tariffs on €2.8bn worth of USA goods in June on products such as bourbon whiskey, motorcycles and orange juice.

The 14-page list has some fairly symbolic targets, with "French cheese", Roquefort cheese, wine, champagne, olive oil and seafood such as oysters. "Today, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) begins its process... to identify products of the European Union to which additional duties may be applied until the European Union removes those subsidies", the office said in a press release, published on its official website late on Monday.

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The EU and the USA appealed against that to the WTO Appellate Body, which on last month echoed the 2017 finding, although it appeared to take a harsher line against the American side. "The Administration is preparing to respond immediately when the WTO issues its finding on the value of United States countermeasures".

President Donald Trump's administration has been embroiled many trade wars across the globe. The EU has left most of its subsidies unchanged and launched additional aid since the challenge, USTR said.

The proposed United States tariffs would be imposed in addition to existing levies on European products.

It began in 2018 when the United States started slapping tariffs on the imports of steel and aluminium from a number of countries, including the EU. In March this year, Trump threatened more tariffs on the bloc's goods, including that on cars imported from the EU.

The EU was also reprimanded by the WTO during the tit-for-tat conflict between Airbus and Boeing, and the United States asked the WTO to determine the amount it could impose in sanctions against the European Union for failing to comply in removing subsidies.

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