Brussels delivered a sharp message on Wednesday that U.S. President Joe Biden should “walk the talk” at a summit next week and take concrete action to unwind tariffs that poisoned transatlantic relations under Donald Trump.
A summit in Brussels on June 15 between Biden and top EU officials is being styled as a prime opportunity to reset EU-U.S. ties, but the European Commission’s trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis is still bristling that Biden has kept in place several measures imposed by Trump that ignited a transatlantic trade war.
Europe’s main bugbear focuses on so-called Section 232 measures where Trump cited national security to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum. Brussels argued such measures were unjustified. The EU is also locked in a long-running dispute with the U.S. over subsidies for their respective aircraft-building champions Airbus and Boeing.
“We want to make decisive progress to resolve our bilateral disputes on aircraft and the U.S. Section 232 measures on steel and aluminium,” Dombrovskis told members of the European Parliament on Wednesday. “On the latter, we sent a clear signal to the U.S. of our willingness to solve this issue in a fair and balanced way, by suspending the automatic doubling of our legitimate countermeasures. It is now for the U.S. to walk the talk.”
The EU has been pushing for a long-term détente with the U.S. since Biden’s election. Dombrovskis told MEPs he hopes the summit “can deliver a positive trade agenda” and stressed that de-escalating and solving the EU-U.S. trade disputes is “a trust and confidence building measure.”
Brussels extended an olive branch mid-May by not escalating retaliatory tariffs against U.S. steel and aluminum duties. Instead, both sides agreed to enter into talks “to address global steel and aluminum excess capacity.” Back in March, Brussels and Washington had also agreed to suspend retaliatory tariffs in the longstanding Airbus-Boeing dispute in order to find a permanent solution.
But the clock is ticking. The tariff suspension on imports of U.S. goods can only be granted for a maximum period of six months, whereas the EU and the U.S. had agreed to suspend the retaliatory aircraft tariffs for four months.
Technical negotiations ahead of the EU-U.S. summit next week have not yet led to permanent solutions, EU diplomats said. But leaders will still pledge to resolve the disputes before those deadlines, according to draft conclusions of the summit seen by POLITICO.
“We commit to make every effort possible to find comprehensive and durable solutions to our trade disputes, and to avoid further retaliatory measures burdening transatlantic trade,” the draft conclusions read.
More concretely, leaders commit to find solutions in the aircraft dispute before the deadline of July 11 and work towards “lifting before 1 December 2021 all additional/punitive tariffs on both sides linked to our steel and aluminium dispute.”
Brussels and Washington also want to work together to address steel and aluminium excess capacity “ensuring the long-term viability of our steel and aluminium industries.”