EU is planning to end U.S. tariff battle with Biden


President Joe Biden speaks about the May jobs report on June 4, 2021, at the Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, Convention Center.

Jim Watson | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON — The European Union wants the United States to commit to end their aircraft-related tariffs next week, according to a draft statement seen by CNBC, as both sides look to get the transatlantic relationship back on track.

The EU is also hoping that President Joe Biden, who is due in Brussels for a summit early next week, will vow to end steel and aluminum duties before December this year, according to the document from the EU.

The European Council, the institution hosting the summit, is responsible for preparing the joint statement that the leaders will look to greenlight. Bloomberg first reported the news.

An EU official, who didn’t want to be named due to the sensitive nature of the subject, told CNBC that the European Union is looking to “push” the United States to agree on an easing of trade tariffs that emerged during the Donald Trump presidency.

However, so far, there is “no clear sign” that the U.S. will sign up to what the EU wants, the same official added.  The U.S. administration was not immediately available for comment when contacted by CNBC on Wednesday morning.

The EU-U.S. relationship hit rock bottom during the previous U.S. administration, with Trump often criticizing Europe for being worse than China with its trade practices.

Trump imposed tariffs worth $7.5 billion on European products after the World Trade Organization ruled that the EU had given unfair subsidies to Airbus. Shortly after, the EU also imposed duties worth $4 billion on U.S. products off the back of another WTO ruling that the U.S. had also granted illegal aid to Boeing. The dispute first emerged in 2004.

The summit will have a lot of emphasis on ‘this relationship can still work’.

Niclas Frederic Poitiers

research fellow, Bruegel

Separately, the Trump presidency decided in 2018 to impose a 25% tariff on European steel and a 10% duty on European aluminum on the grounds of national security — something the EU vehemently opposed and retaliated against. A first round of tariffs worth 2.8 billion euros ($3.4 billion) was implemented by the EU and another round worth 3.6 billion euros was due to kick in this month.

However, the EU decided to put these metal-related duties on hold last month in a sign of good faith to boost negotiations.

A ‘symbolic’ meeting

Next week’s summit is the first EU-U.S. high-level meeting since 2014.

“The engagement has a lot of symbolic value,” Niclas Frederic Poitiers, a research fellow at the Brussels-based think tank Bruegel, told CNBC last week.

“The summit will have a lot of emphasis on ‘this relationship can still work’,” he added.

The tone between EU and U.S. officials changed since the election of Biden in 2020, with European leaders not shying away from expressing their happiness with the election outcome.

However, experts say the jury is still out on how much joint cooperation there will be between the Biden administration and the EU.

“There is little doubt that President Biden is committed to working with America’s partners in Europe but not at any price,” Leslie Vinjamuri, director of the U.S. and Americas programme at Chatham House, said to CNBC.

“President Biden has a very clear bottom line and that bottom line is that these policies have to work for Americans. It’s also pretty clear that any common policies have to fit with the political climate at home, and especially when it comes to trade, technology and China,” she added.



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