UK's Truss expects Airbus-Boeing row to be resolved by July

Emma Farge and Cecile Mantovani
·3 min read
British trade minister Truss speaks to Reuters after a meeting with WTO Director-General Okonjo-Iweala in Geneva

By Emma Farge and Cecile Mantovani

GENEVA (Reuters) -British trade minister Liz Truss expects the trade dispute over Airbus and Boeing to be resolved by July when a freeze on tit-for-tat tariffs expires, she told Reuters on Friday.

The tariff battle involving the United States, the European Union and Britain relates to a row over state subsidies for the two planemakers. Britain is a party to the talks as a former EU member and manufacturer of key Airbus components.

The parties involved agreed in March to suspend retaliatory tariffs on goods such as Scotch whiskey for four months to give negotiations in the long-running row a chance.

Truss said they were now working on the details of a draft text of an agreement, with the negotiations focused on "subsidy disciplines" in the aerospace industry.

"I am determined to make sure the United Kingdom has a strong aerospace industry, that we reach a resolution with the U.S. - which I think there absolutely is a landing zone for," she said in an interview.

Asked if a permanent resolution was possible by the end of the temporary tariff freeze, she said: "Yes. I do. We are already in detailed discussions."

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai's office declined to comment. She told a Senate hearing this week she was "very serious" about resolving the dispute.

AUSTRALIAN DEAL

Truss was also upbeat about Britain concluding a free trade agreement with Australia by June, saying that "huge progress" had been made.

"There's just a few outstanding issues to deal with and I'm looking forward to my call with him (Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan) later today," she said, declining to give details.

Truss held her first in-person meeting with World Trade Organization Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in an hour-long session at the group's Lake Geneva headquarters on Friday at which they discussed WTO reforms.

Britain gained an independent seat at the WTO last year after it left the EU and has since been more assertive.

Truss said she was "hugely hopeful" of progress on reform of the 25-year-old trade body ahead of a major meeting in December, stressing that it was very important that its Appellate Body which rules on trade feuds be fixed.

The WTO's top appeals body was incapacitated in 2019 when President Donald Trump's administration blocked the appointment of new judges, leaving international trade's supreme court unable to issue rulings.

Truss stressed that a solution should be "binding", in an apparent contrast to a temporary, voluntary work-around backed by the EU and others.

WTO members are also due to discuss a temporary waiver on intellectual property rights for COVID-19 drugs and vaccines on Friday which London and other wealthy countries oppose.

Asked if she might change her stance amid rising pressure, Truss said: "I don't think we have the evidence that the TRIPS waiver would actually deliver practical results."

Technology transfers should instead be the focus, she said, naming AstraZeneca's voluntary licensing programme.

Truss also called for a WTO resolution on getting stronger industrial subsidy rules, including for China, a matter she is advocating while Britain holds the presidency of the G7 group of nations this year.

"It is in everyone's interests, including China's interest, that we resolve this issue," she said.

(Additional reporting by William James and Elizabeth Piper in London and Andrea Shalal in Washington; Editing by David Clarke)