EU, US agree to suspend tariffs over Airbus-Boeing dispute

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BRUSSELS — In a sign of goodwill to rebuild trans-Atlantic relations, the European Union and the United States have decided to suspend tariffs used in the longstanding Airbus-Boeing dispute, the EU Commission president said Friday.

Ursula von der Leyen said after remote talks with U.S. President Joe Biden that both sides “committed to focus on resolving our aircraft disputes, based on the work of our respective trade representatives."

The suspension will last for an initial period of four months.

Von der Leyen called it “a very positive signal for our economic co-operation in the years to come.”

"This is excellent news for businesses and industries on both sides of the Atlantic,” she said.

The EU is using the early months of the Biden administration to reset relations with the U.S. after four years of trans-Atlantic acrimony under former President Donald Trump.

With the initiative to ease the aircraft fight that long weighed on trade relations, the 27-nation bloc is seeking to rekindle the spirit of co-operation between Washington and Europe that has long defined global diplomacy.

Von der Leyen said she invited Biden to a global health summit in Rome on May 21 to streamline the fight against COVID-19, the common enemy that has killed over a million people in the EU and U.S. combined.

Only last November, the EU imposed tariffs on up to $4 billion worth of U.S. goods and services over illegal aid for plane maker Boeing, even though the 27 EU nations already held out hope relations would improve under Biden.

The move came only a few weeks after international arbitrators gave the EU the green light for such punitive action. The World Trade Organization had deemed illegal some U.S. support for Boeing — which is a bitter rival to Europe’s Airbus — and said the EU could make up for that with a limited amount of penalties on U.S. trade.

The WTO had ruled that Boeing was given an unfair edge over Airbus by tax breaks from Washington state, where Boeing once had headquarters. But after the WTO decision, the state repealed the tax breaks, making the EU’s complaint obsolete in the view of U.S. officials.

Raf Casert, The Associated Press