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Civil aircraft feature on EU's US countermeasures list

European regulators have listed large civil aircraft and helicopters among potential targets of trade countermeasures aimed at US exports, following the US government’s plans to introduce tariffs on Airbus jets.

The European Commission has opened a consultation on the measures, publishing an 11-page preliminary list of products which could fall under the new regime, featuring increased customs duties of up to 100%.

It includes aircraft with an unladen weight above 15t as well as helicopters both above and below 2t.

“The proposed action will only apply to new non-military aircraft,” the Commission has clarified in the list.

It has invited public consultation on the proposal which will run until 31 May. The provisional list amounts to some $20 billion of US exports to the European Union.

The Commission is responding to proposed US government tariffs on a range of products put forward in the context of a long-running transatlantic dispute over subsidies for large civil aircraft programmes.

Both sides have maintained that their major commercial airframers, Airbus and Boeing, have benefited from government assistance in various forms, and both have claimed to have obtained the upper hand in dispute-resolution cases at the World Trade Organisation.

The Commission insists that a final compliance report, adopted by the WTO in April, shows US subsidies to Boeing “continue to cause significant harm” – including lost sales – to Airbus.

“We must continue to defend a level playing field for our industry,” says European trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom. “But let me be clear, we do not want a tit-for-tat.

“While we need to be ready with countermeasures, in case there is no other way out, I still believe that dialogue is what should prevail between important partners.”

The WTO would have the final decision on a suitable level of redress, enabling a final list of products to be drawn up for inclusion.

Under the consultation the Commission says it expects to receive input from private stakeholders potentially affected by the planned European countermeasures.

“The information gathering should provide the Commission with input to assist it in assessing the parameters of planned commercial policy measures,” it adds, enabling it to “be in a position to promptly take action”.

Alongside the aerospace component the preliminary list includes – among multiple other products – tractors and excavators, suitcases, handbags, wine, chocolate, fish and seafood, bicycle parts, and playing cards.

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