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EU will fight 'until last hour' to stall US Airbus tariffs

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European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told a news briefing that Brussels had not lost hope that Washington could be persuaded to hold fire.

[BRUSSELS] The EU's top trade official on Monday said Europe would fight until the very last moment to dissuade the United States from imposing tariffs in retaliation for illegal EU subsidies to Airbus.

European nations are scrambling to prepare a response to US tariffs on billions of dollars' worth of EU goods including cheese and wine that the World Trade Organisation formally approved on Monday.

Set to enter into force on Friday, the European Union hopes to find common ground before then to avoid escalating trade tensions that risk further battering economies across the globe.

With "still four days to go", European Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom told a news briefing that Brussels had not lost hope that Washington could be persuaded to hold fire.

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"Until the very last hour we will keep on pushing the Americans to see if they can freeze the tariffs," Ms Malmstrom said.

"I recently wrote a letter to (US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer) to say again that even if yes they are allowed to impose those tariffs, it doesn't mean that they have to," she said.

Earlier this month, a WTO arbitrator gave Washington the green light to slap tariffs on US$7.5 billion worth of EU imports, a landmark moment in the 15-year legal battle between Airbus and US planemaker Boeing.

In the immediate line of fire are civilian aircraft from Britain, France, Germany and Spain - the countries which formed Airbus - which will cost 10 per cent more when imported to the US from October 18.

But the tariffs also target consumer products such as French wine, which Mr Trump had vowed to take aim at in recent months. Wine from France, Spain and Germany will now face 25 per cent tariffs.

Cheeses from across Europe will also cost 25 per cent more for American consumers, as will "Made in England" suits, cashmere sweaters and pyjamas.

Instead of tariffs, EU officials are trying to reach a negotiated settlement with the US to avoid escalating trade tensions that risk battering economies across the globe.

If those negotiations fail to produce a deal, Brussels will get the chance to impose its own WTO-approved tariffs on US products after convincing WTO judges that Boeing had also benefited from illegal US government subsidies.

An arbitrators award in that case is due in 2020.

AFP