Washington and Brussels hailed an opportunity to restore frayed ties as US President Joe Biden and EU leader Ursula von der Leyen on Friday suspended tit-for-tat trade tariffs in a longstanding aircraft dispute.

The truce in the 16-year-old transatlantic dispute over subsidies for rival planemakers Boeing and Airbus represents a significant ratcheting back of the aggressive trade policies pursued by former US President Donald Trump.

Following a phone call on Friday, Biden and von der Leyen’s announced a four-month suspension of billions of dollars in punitive import tariffs, in what the White House said was an opportunity “to repair and revitalize the US-EU partnership.”

“I was glad to speak to President Biden this afternoon – the first of many exchanges and the start of a good personal partnership,” von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said in a statement.

“President Biden and I agreed to suspend all our tariffs imposed in the context of the Airbus-Boeing disputes, both on aircraft and non-aircraft products, for an initial period of four months.”

The call was the European Union chief’s first with Biden since he came to office, although the pair spoke in November after he won the US presidential election. Each side has won WTO rulings in the dispute which authorised the governments to impose punitive tariffs, including US duties on a record $7.5 billion in EU goods.

Washington has imposed tariffs on European products and 15% tariffs on Airbus.

And the EU levied additional duties on $4 billion worth of American products including Boeing planes and farm produce such as wheat and tobacco. Biden initially maintained the duties imposed by his predecessor but also pledged to rebuild relations with American allies and trading partners that frayed over the past four years. On Thursday the United States and Britain – which hosts an Airbus plant and was part of the EU when the dispute started – also agreed to suspend retaliatory tariffs for four months.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2021.

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