Brussels (AFP)

Without waiting for the arrival of the new American President Joe Biden, Brussels announced on Monday customs sanctions against the United States in the dispute between Airbus and Boeing to seek a negotiated end to this conflict which has been in existence for more than 15 years.

"We have a World Trade Organization (WTO) decision on the Boeing case, which allows us to impose taxes and that is what we are doing," said Valdis Dombrovskis, European Commissioner for the Economy, during of a press conference Monday morning, while specifying that Brussels remained "open to a negotiated solution".

The details of the American products targeted and the amount of the sanctions were to be announced in the early afternoon, European sources told AFP.

The WTO had authorized in mid-October the EU to tax American products for a maximum amount of 4 billion dollars.

These taxes would mirror the authorization granted last year to the United States to impose taxes on nearly 7.5 billion dollars of European goods and services imported each year, the heaviest sanction ever authorized by the United States. 'WTO.

The European aircraft manufacturer and its American competitor, and through them the EU and the United States, have been clashing since October 2004 before the WTO, justice of the peace for world trade, over the public aid paid to the two groups, judged illegal on both sides.

The trade ministers of the European Union met this Monday in Brussels to discuss in particular the trade relationship with the United States, but also relations with China and the evolution of the World Trade Organization (WTO) .

Behind the scenes, member states had expressed their doubts about the timing of European sanctions, including Germany, a major exporting power, which fears US taxes on its cars.

German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier told Deutschlandfunk radio on Monday that he saw in the change of president in the United States "the opportunity that we do not come to further tightening on rights customs ".

Under Donald Trump, the United States pursued a policy of confrontation with Europe, often with Berlin in the sights.

- Firmness and dialogue -

"There are great expectations after the electoral victory of Joe Biden and the hope that the United States will return to a multilateral approach, including in the trade", affirmed Mr. Altmaier upon his arrival in Brussels.

On the French side, we pleaded for an attitude of firmness, a necessary condition to promote a dialogue with Washington on an equal footing.

"As the EU has said on numerous occasions, we are ready to suspend or withdraw our taxes at any time, if the United States suspends or withdraws their taxes," said Dombrovskis.

"But, so far, the United States has not agreed to withdraw its taxes," he added.

Hence the European choice to go to arm wrestling.

Thus, could be targeted by European taxes airliners produced in the United States, tractors, but also sweet potatoes, peanuts, frozen orange juice, tobacco, ketchup or even Pacific salmon, according to a list obtained by AFP.

The dialogue should however continue.

In October, US Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer said he wanted to "intensify" negotiations with Brussels.

The aeronautics sector, already affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, has every interest in avoiding a series of sanctions that would only result in losers.

The prospect of the Boeing 737 MAX coming back into flight could constitute an additional incentive to negotiate on the American side, so as not to increase the price of the aircraft.

Grounded since March 2019 after two accidents that killed 346, it has been ordered several hundred copies by European companies.

© 2020 AFP