London (AFP)

The British government has landed an agreement with the American administration of Joe Biden to suspend tariffs on British products like Scotch whiskey imposed under Donald Trump over an old dispute between Airbus and Boeing.

Under the terms of this agreement, the United States suspends for four months all customs surcharges on direct imports of British products, in the longest ongoing dispute before the World Trade Organization (WTO), ongoing for 16 years. .

This is an approach intended to "negotiate a balanced resolution to disputes" and "begin to seriously respond to the challenges posed by new entrants to the civil aviation market from non-market economies, such as China. ", according to a joint statement released by Washington.

The agreement notably suspends the 25% tariffs imposed by Washington on Scotch whiskey - a sector which represents 50,000 jobs -, those on cashmere and other products and provides for a "de-escalation" in this dispute, noted on Twitter British Foreign Trade Minister Liz Truss.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed "fantastic news".

"From Scotch whiskey distilleries to makers of (cheese) Stilton, the US decision to suspend tariffs on certain UK exports today will benefit businesses across the UK," he tweeted.

The European manufacturer Airbus, which manufactures the wings of its planes in the United Kingdom, has affirmed its support for "all the actions necessary to create the conditions for fair competition" and for a "negotiated solution".

Airbus and its American competitor Boeing, and through them the European Union - of which the United Kingdom was then part - and the United States, have been clashing since October 2004 before the WTO over public aid paid to the two groups, deemed illegal.

The United States was authorized in October 2019 to impose taxes on nearly 7.5 billion dollars (6.8 billion euros) of European goods and services imported each year, the heaviest sanction ever imposed by the United States. 'WTO.

Washington has since imposed certain products imported from the European Union up to 25%, 15% for Airbus planes.

- Hopes for a commercial agreement -

This announcement thus concretizes the wish expressed by London to find an agreement in this affair, after the failure of the British government to come to an agreement with the Trump administration.

The United Kingdom already made a gesture in December by announcing the abandonment of tariffs imposed on American products in the context of the dispute between Airbus and Boeing, hoping to obtain reciprocity.

This decision was to apply from January 1, once the country had left the single European market and the customs union.

The United Kingdom then dissociated itself from the European Union in this matter, since American customs duties are imposed on European products.

Boris Johnson has praised the merits of Brexit, which he said shows "what the UK can do" thanks to its independence from a commercial point of view.

"I look forward to strengthening the British-American relationship" to "rebuild better together," he said in a statement.

In 2018, before these surcharges were imposed, the United States was importing around £ 550 million worth of products hit by the measures.

After Brexit, the country hopes to conclude a broad trade agreement with the United States and, after having envisaged concluding in 2020, London is now more cautious.

The new president Joe Biden had cooled the expectations of the United Kingdom in early December by telling the New York Times that he did not want to conclude a new trade agreement with anyone in the short term, in order to prioritize the American economy.

London wants to take advantage of Brexit to negotiate trade agreements around the world.

He snatched an agreement before Christmas with the EU, by far his main trading partner.

Previously, the United Kingdom had already announced a trade treaty with Japan and reproduced with many partners on a bilateral basis the agreements it enjoyed as an EU member state.

© 2021 AFP