The World Trade Organization on Tuesday said the European Union may impose tariffs on $3.99 billion in Boeing Co. jets and other U.S. goods as part of a long-running trade dispute.
The ruling clears the way for the EU to respond to tariffs that the trade body last October authorized the U.S. to impose on $7.5 billion in Airbus SE jets and other imported European products. Washington in 2004 took European countries to the WTO over subsidies to Airbus, and Europe responded soon after with a case against U.S. support to Boeing.
The decision is part of a trade dispute that has lasted for nearly 16 years.
The World Trade Organization tariff award, which confirms a decision first reported by Reuters on Sept 30, threatens to intensify transatlantic trade tensions just three weeks ahead of the U.S. presidential election.
However, negotiators on both sides say it could also lead at last to discussions to resolve a 16-year legal battle over subsidies to aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus AIR.PA.
Both the United States and the EU have signalled interest in settling the dispute over planemaker subsidies, while accusing the other of refusing to talk seriously.
Trade tensions between the US and Europe have escalated over the past few years, particularly under the Trump administration. Airbus and Boeing, the world’s two largest plane makers have for years accused the other of unfairly receiving billions of dollar in government subsidies. Airbus is based in Europe, while Boeing is in the US.
EU officials have recently said they were hoping to reach a settlement with Washington, so the ruling doesn’t mean the bloc will immediately adopt the tariffs.
The EU Chair of the Committee on International Trade Bernd Lange, said in a statement following the ruling: “I sincerely hope that this decision will work as an incentive to end these disputes through a negotiated settlement. That should remain the absolute priority because, in times like these, we should, more than ever, work together and not against each other.”
“Therefore I call on both sides to enter into negotiations to reach a long-term agreement on civil aircraft subsidies. The mini-deal concluded between the EU and the US has already created a momentum,” he added.