Airbus Boeing tariff wars: UK to skip the conflict?

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Amid the ongoing tariff war, the UK announced plans to stop imposing tariffs on Boeing aircraft after Brexit. 

The UK Trade Department announced that tariffs on the plane manufacturer Boeing aircraft will be suspended from January 1, 2021. In January 2020, the UK formally left the European Union under the terms of following a transitional period of 11 months. During that time, the UK joined the EU in applying tariffs for the US goods.

The EU imposed retaliatory tariffs on the US imports worth $4 billion after the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled that the US had given illegal state aid to Boeing. 

“Ultimately, we want to de-escalate the conflict and come to a negotiated settlement so we can deepen our trading relationship with the US and draw a line under all this,” the UK trade minister Liz Truss said in a statement.

The UK’s move was supported by the Boeing company which has been dealing with its own crises as its Boeing 737 MAX has been grounded since March 2019. 53 737 MAX’s are still pending delivery to EU-based operators.

“This suspension of harmful tariffs allows us to work with the UK as a global commercial aviation hub and offers continued support for our employees in Puget Sound and Charleston,” the company said in a statement. “We support a level playing field with free and fair competition across aviation.”

On December 9, 2020, the US Trade authority responded saying that the UK had no right to impose tariffs after leaving the EU. 

“Only the EU sued the United States at the WTO; the UK did not bring a case in its individual capacity,” said the US Trade representative. “Therefore, the UK has no authority from the WTO to participate in any such action after it no longer is part of the EU.” 

On December 10, 2020, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman said that Britain’s Department for International Trade had “confirmed that we would be able to legally impose these tariffs outside of the EU”, reported the BBC News. 

However, the UK is still keen to diffuse the row and establish post-Brexit trade relationships with the US. 

“We are serious about de-escalation and as a gesture of our determination to unlock a deal, we will be suspending retaliatory tariffs resulting from the Boeing dispute from January,” the government’s spokesman said. “This demonstrates the seriousness we place about reaching a negotiated settlement. But we obviously reserve the right to reimpose tariffs if a settlement isn’t reached.”


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