EU pleads with US to drop crippling trade tariffs amid tense row with Washington

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Valdis Dombrovskis claimed the bloc is preparing its own retaliatory strike on Washington, but insisted ending transatlantic trade tensions was his top priority. The Latvian European commissioner was appointed as the bloc’s next trade envoy on Wednesday following the resignation of Irishman Phil Hogan earlier this year. Mr Dombrovskis said Brussels and Washington should work to end the spat over illegal subsidies handed to European aircraft manufacturer Airbus.

The row sparked the US to impose £5.8 billion of additional trade tariffs on EU products, such as French wines, Italian cheeses and German machine tools.

Eurocrats are waiting for a decision by the World Trade Organisation before striking back at US products over similar complaints about state aid handouts to Boeing.

Mr Dombrovskis told the FT: “Of course, if the US is not withdrawing their tariffs we have no choice but to then introduce our tariffs.

“In any movement form the US side on withdrawing or at least suspending their tariffs, this will not require much delay from our side.”

Brussels is preparing to target culturally significant US products, such as tractors, motorcycles and casino machines.

Mr Dombrovskis said he wanted to build on the work of his predecessor, but added he would not pursue the same “mini deals” as Mr Hogan did with Washington.

The Latvian said: “I would not be expecting new mini-deals like the lobster deal, for the reason that our negotiating mandates are not matching.

“Our mandate clearly excludes agriculture and the US clearly wants to discuss agriculture.”

He claimed he wanted to move forward with a deal to resolve “purely legal or administrative issues” blocking trade in some EU and US agriculture products, such as European beef.

But the trade chief insisted this would not involve lowering the bloc’s food-safety standards.

“We have lately had a constructive co-operation on shellfish – both sides are now in the process of finalising the last steps before mutual trade can restart,” Mr Dombrovskis.

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“I hope we can intensify our co-operation on other similar issues.”

In August, the EU agreed to lower the bloc’s tariffs on lobsters in a bid to calm trade tensions with President Donald Trump.

In the interview, Mr Dombrovskis refused to speculate on the upcoming US Presidential election.

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He added: “This turn to unilateralism and this more protectionist approach was clearly something which came with the Trump administration.

“But in any case we will be engaging… and trying to bring the US administration back within the framework of multilateralism.”

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