On Tuesday the Trump administration announced that it was considering imposing duties on a wide range of transatlantic imports “of certain current or former EU member states”.
The US Trade Representative (USTR) said it was considering imposing new tariffs on products from Britain, France, Spain and Germany with a total value of $3.1 billion.
The US issued a list of 30 different types of products that might be affected by the tariffs.
They included gin, beer, vodka, olives, pastry and cakes. In addition, the USTR said it was considering increasing the duties on non-single malt whiskeys from the UK, the Financial Times reports.
It’s unclear if and how the US’ decision may affect ongoing negotiations between the US and the UK to secure a post-Brexit trade deal.
It’s also unclear how the move might affect US-UK relations more widely – a relationship that US trade representative Robert Lighthizer only last month referred to as “among the most important alliances in human history”.
Liz Truss said she was “disappointed” to hear the news.
Truss said she would “strongly urge” the US not to impose more tariffs on UK goods, adding that she was “very disappointed” to learn of the news.
She warned: “I don’t want to see any more of these arbitrary tariffs.”
Liz Truss had initially kicked off the free trade talks with Lighthizer – her US counterpart – in the first week of May.
The US trade deal with the UK has raised concerns on this side of the pond that the US could muscle in parts of the agreement that would be detrimental to the UK.
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US trade representative Robert Lighthizer had opened US/UK trade talks with Liz Truss last month.
Food standards and animal welfare are two of the concerns that have received particular attention.
In May, Mr Lighthizer, US trade representative, said: “Under the leadership of president Trump, the United States will negotiate an ambitious and high-standard trade agreement with the UK that will strengthen our economic, support good-paying jobs and substantially improve opportunities for trade and investment between our two countries.
“This will be an historic agreement that is consistent with US priorities and the negotiating objectives established by Congress in US law.”
At the time, Truss said that the US was Britain’s largest trading partner and that “increasing transatlantic trade can help our economies bounce back from the economic challenge posed by Coronavirus”.
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The dispute roots from an EU / US tariff dispute over Boeing / Airbus subsidies.
She added: “As the Prime Minister has said, the UK is a champion of free trade and this deal will make it even easier to do business with our friends across the pond”.
Back to the present, the current tariff situation as a whole stems from a US dispute with the European Union regarding Airbus – a European aircraft manufacturing giant – and its US rival Boeing.
That particular dispute calls forward cases that date all the way back to 2004, but its implications are clearly being felt now.
In essence, the World Trade Organisation found that the world’s two largest plane manufacturers have received billions in unfair subsidies.
It’s understood that the proposed tariffs could affect over $3 billion worth of products.
Last year Boeing was given the go-ahead to slap tariffs on $7.5 billion worth of EU goods to balance things out.
And last month it was reported that the EU had demanded $10 billion in retaliatory tariffs over unfair subsidies granted to Boeing.
However, the US told the WTO that it considers the dispute concluded, since it repealed its tax breaks to Boeing in March this year.