WASHINGTON: The United States imposed tariffs on a record USD 7.5 billion worth of European Union goods on Friday, despite threats of retaliation, with Airbus, French wine and Scottish whiskies among the high-profile targets.
The tariffs, which took effect just after midnight in Washington (0401 GMT), came after talks between European officials and US trade representatives failed to win a last-minute reprieve.
The WTO-endorsed onslaught from US President Donald Trump also comes as Washington is mired in a trade war with China and could risk destabilising the global economy further.
In the line of fire are civilian aircraft from Britain, France, Germany and Spain — the countries that formed Airbus — which will now cost 10 per cent more when imported to the US.
But the tariffs also target consumer products such as French wine, which Trump had vowed to attack in recent months. Wine from France, Spain and Germany will now face 25 per cent tariffs.
Speaking in Washington hours before the tariffs were due to come into effect, France’s Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire warned the move would have serious repercussions.
“Europe is ready to retaliate, in the framework of course of the WTO,” he told reporters shortly after meeting with US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund annual meetings.
“These decisions would have very negative consequences both from an economic and a political point of view.”
Le Maire was due to meet US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer later on Friday.
He also warned the US against starting another front in its trade conflicts and again called for a negotiated solution.
At a time when the global economy is slowing, “I think that our responsibility is to do our best to avoid that kind of conflict,” Le Maire said.
The Europeans have long advocated negotiation over conflict and they themselves will be able to impose tariffs next year to punish the United States for subsidising Boeing.