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EU gives green light to trigger US$4b tariff strike on US

[BRUSSELS] European Union trade ministers gave the go-ahead for EU tariffs on US$4 billion of American goods in retaliation over illegal aid to Boeing, seeking to prod the US to scrap its duties prompted by unlawful subsidies to Airbus.

The green light paves the way for the European Commission, the EU's executive arm in Brussels, to trigger the import levies on Monday. US aircraft-related products as well as other goods ranging from spirits and nuts to handbags and chemicals were included on the bloc's planned target list last month.

European Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis announced the planned retaliation at a press briefing after the EU ministerial video conference. The decision will be published in the official journal and the tariffs will come into effect on Tuesday.

"We are exercising our rights," Mr Dombrovskis said. "We are ready to withdraw or suspend our tariffs anytime when the US is ready to do so." The imminent tariff strike is meant to give the EU more leverage in pushing for a truce that has been elusive with US.President Donald Trump, who will remain in office until Jan 20. The tit-for-tat move may make it easier for President-elect Joe Biden to embrace longstanding European calls to settle the transatlantic dispute over aircraft aid at the negotiating table.

For the past year, the EU has faced US tariffs on US$7.5 billion of European goods after Washington won a World Trade Organization case against market-distorting aid to Airbus. Last month, in a parallel 16-year-old lawsuit, the EU received final WTO permission to hit US$4 billion of American products with duties over unfair subsidies to Boeing.

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The WTO damages award in the Boeing case came months later than the EU had hoped, complicating its deliberations as a result of the proximity of the Nov 3 US election. The timing of the planned tariffs is a political compromise by coming after the US ballot and before Mr Trump leaves the White House.

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