Washington (AFP)

The United States has maintained its punitive taxes against European products despite a gesture by Airbus which now claims to be in conformity with WTO rules, an American decision facing which the EU must "prepare for respond firmly ", according to French Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire.

This is the latest episode in the dispute between the United States and the EU over a trade dispute dating from October 2004 over public aid to European aircraft manufacturers Airbus and American Boeing.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) last year authorized Washington to impose taxes on nearly 7.5 billion dollars (6.3 billion euros) of European goods and services imported each year, sanctioning the most heaviest ever imposed by the WTO.

Since then, Washington has imposed punitive tariffs on certain imports from the European Union such as wine, cheese and olives, up to 25%. Customs duties of 10% on Airbus planes were raised in March to 15%.

Washington on Wednesday kept the amount of goods and services affected at $ 7.5 billion, with rates unchanged of 15% for aeronautics and 25% for the rest, including French, German, Spanish wines and British whiskeys. .

The list of goods concerned has however been modified, with the withdrawal as of September 1 of certain products from Greece and the United Kingdom and the addition for an equivalent amount of products from France and Germany.

"Airbus is fully compliant to prepare the way for this dispute settlement," responded the French Minister of the Economy Bruno Le Maire.

The European aircraft manufacturer has indicated that it "deeply regrets" the American decision, after reaching an agreement at the end of July with the Spanish and French governments to pay higher interest on the reimbursable advances granted by Paris and Madrid when the program was launched. A350 long-haul aircraft.

"We consider that the United States today has no justification for maintaining the tariff sanctions it has imposed since October 2019," reacted for his part the Minister for Foreign Trade Franck Riester.

The European Commission has reserved a cautious welcome to "the American decision not to exacerbate the ongoing aeronautical dispute". According to her, "the current economic slowdown, in particular its impact on the air transport and aeronautics sectors, gives particular urgency to the resolution of this dispute".

- "New process" -

Mr. Le Maire said he had "asked European Commissioner Phil Hogan a few days ago to speed up the settlement of this conflict so that there are no longer any sanctions against French aeronautical and wine products".

The Federation of Wine and Spirits Exporters of France (FEVS) regretted in a press release the maintenance of American customs duties "which continues to strongly penalize exporters", at a time when "we are all extremely weakened by the economic and health crisis ".

"Given the deadlock in which the WTO finds itself, a solution to this conflict can only be bilateral and negotiated," said a French wine professional who requested anonymity. "In the meantime, the United States continues to hit French, Spanish, German wines and Scotch whiskeys in a very violent manner," he regretted.

The Scotch Whiskey Association also said it was "deeply disappointed" that Washington did not lift the tax on the drink, adding that "exports to the United States are down 30% since the tax was in place" , resulting in losses of 300 million pounds (332 million euros) for the sector.

But Washington on Wednesday considered the actions taken by the EU insufficient, while showing itself open to the search for a solution.

"The EU and member countries have failed to take the necessary actions to comply with WTO rulings," said US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

"As a result, the United States will begin a new process with the EU to try to get an agreement to remedy the practices that have harmed the American aviation industry and its workers and to assure the companies Americans to be placed on an equal footing, ”he continued.

This 16-year-long dispute is the longest and most complicated trade dispute dealt with by the WTO.

bur-mtp-boc-cas-im / soe / bh

© 2020 AFP