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US and EU Release Preliminary Tariff Lists Amid WTO Aircraft Subsidies Disputes

UPDATE: On April 17, 2019, the European Commission launched a public consultation period on a preliminary list of products from the US to be considered for countermeasures in its own separate case against the US. The announcement comes following a ruling by the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Appellate Body, finding that the illegal US subsidy support for Boeing continues to cause harm to Airbus’ market opportunities, and is the latest development in an escalating trade dispute between the US and the EU. In a press release, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malström pressed for dialogue to resolve the tensions: “We must continue to defend a level-playing field for our industry. But let me be clear, we do not want a tit-for-tat. While we need to be ready with countermeasures in case there is no other way out, I still believe that dialogue is what should prevail between important partners such as the EU and the US, including in bringing an end to this long-standing dispute. The EU remains open for discussions with the US, provided these are without preconditions and aim at a fair outcome.”

The proposed list includes a variety of agri-food products, aircrafts and chemicals, among others, that represent about US$20 billion in US exports to the EU. Ultimately, the exact amount of countermeasures will be determined by a WTO-appointed arbitrator. Once that number is finalized, the EU will produce a final list of products to match that amount. Stakeholders are invited to submit their comments to the European Commission on the proposed list through May 31, 2019. Our team in Brussels stands by ready to assist with the public comment process.


For many years, Boeing and the US government have cried unfair and illegal trade practices over EU subsidies of Airbus aircraft. Likewise, Airbus has alleged unfair US subsidies of Boeing planes. The two sides took their cases to the World Trade Organization (WTO), where the fight continues to this day – and a wide range of US and European products could soon find themselves in the crosshairs of this fight.

In May 2018, the WTO affirmed a previous ruling in favor of the US in its case, finding that Airbus had indeed received illegal subsidies.

In March 2019, the WTO appellate ruled separately in favor of the EU in its case, finding that Boeing continues to benefit from illegal subsidies from the US government despite being compelled to eliminate these subsidies in a previous ruling.

While the US’ case against support for Airbus is expected to conclude this summer – and the EU’s proceedings will be resolved later on – the US has proposed US$11 billion in preliminary tariffs on EU goods. This is the amount that the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) estimates the US has incurred in damages as a result of the subsidies. A final ruling on damage is expected from the WTO this summer.

Although the preliminary list includes a wide range of consumer goods, such as cheese and wine, according to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the ultimate focus is on European aircrafts: “Our ultimate goal is to reach an agreement with the EU to end all WTO-inconsistent subsidies to large civil aircraft. When the EU ends these harmful subsidies, the additional U.S. duties imposed in response can be lifted.”

The European Commission responded a day later, with a spokesperson for the commission confirming that it will prepare to respond in kind in its proceedings: “The Commission is starting preparations so that the EU can promptly take action based on the arbitrator’s decision on retaliations rights in this case.”


The preliminary list released by USTR on April 8 includes two sections. The first section would apply only to France, Germany, Spain and the UK, and is seemingly focused squarely at Airbus. Notably, this section includes various types of aircrafts and their parts, including:

Product name (Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) statistical reporting number):

• Helicopters not exceeding 998kg (8802.11.0030)

• Helicopters between 998kg and 2,000kg (8802.11.0045)

• Helicopters exceeding 2,000kg (8802.12.0040)

• New aircraft, passenger transports, exceeding 15,000kg (8802.40.0040)

• New aircraft, cargo transport, exceeding 15,000kg (8802.40.0060)

• Undercarriages (8803.20.0030)

• Fuselages and fuselage sections (8803.30.0030)

The second section includes various consumer goods from all 28 member states of the EU. This list includes a wide range of foods, drinks and textiles, notably:

Product name (HTS subheading):

• Swordfish steaks (0303.57.00)

• Salmon fillets (0304.41.00)

• Trout fillets (0304.42.00)

• Crabmeat (0306.14.20)

• Yogurt (0403.10.50)

• Butter (0405.10.10, 0405.10.20)

• Several types of cheese

• Chocolate milk (2202.99.10)

• Various types of wine

• Various essential oils

• Articles of cotton (5609.00.10)

• Articles of vegetable fibers (5609.00.20)

• Carpets made of wool or fine animal hair (5701.10.40, 5701.10.90)

This list could also represent a sizable threat to US-EU trade more broadly – dramatically raising the costs for US consumers of these goods, affecting the European suppliers’ bottom lines – and risking that US products could face similar tariffs when the EU prepares its retaliation list in response to its pending case against the US.

Next Steps

USTR is launching a process to receive comments on the potential impacts of these tariffs, and to amend the list as needed.

May 6 - Deadline for requesting to appear at the public hearing (including summary of testimony)

May 15 - The inter-agency Section 301 Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing

May 28 - Deadline for submitting written comments, including post-hearing rebuttal comments

© Copyright 2020 Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLPNational Law Review, Volume IX, Number 109


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Frank Samolis, Squire Patton Boggs Law Firm, International Trade Attorney

Frank Samolis is co-chair of our International Trade Practice. He advises clients on international trade matters, including trade law, trade policy and legislation, and international trade negotiations. He is also chair of our India Practice Group and the leader of our Colombia Desk, Latin America Task Force.

Frank handles matters before the Office of the US Trade Representative, other Executive Branch Trade agencies, the US International Trade Commission, US Court of International Trade, US Customs Service and the US Congress. Frank has represented foreign sovereigns or foreign...

George Grammas International Trade Attorney

George N. Grammas leads our International Trade Practice Group and focuses on global import and export compliance and national security. George spends 100% of his time representing clients in export controls, sanctions, anticorruption, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) clearance and other US and global international trade regulatory, compliance and national security matters. He has an established record of successfully representing clients in enforcement matters and offering creative and practical trade compliance advice and solutions for companies operating in a wide range of countries, including in Europe, the Americas and the Asia Pacific region.

Over the past 28 years of practice in export controls and sanctions, George has served as an adviser to industry associations and the US government, including as an industry adviser to the State Department’s Bureau of Politico-Military Affairs through the Defense Trade Advisory Group; co-chair of the Joint Defense Trade Committee of the Electronic Industries Alliance and the Aerospace Industries Association; chair of the export controls committee for CANEUS International, a micro/nano technology association; international trade counsel to the Electronic Industries Alliance; and legal adviser to the Society for International Affairs, the government/industry association on defense trade and export controls.

George is highly regarded as one of the leading practitioners on aerospace, military, security and space export controls under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). In addition, he has many years of experience in specialty chemicals and materials exports. With a background in computer programming, George began his career in electronics technologies and, through current day, he continues to focus on encryption, software, semiconductors, and electronic systems and subsystems exports. Further, over the past decade, George has spent considerable time in Europe; based in our London office, he has achieved an unparalleled understanding of the challenges, lessons-learned and best practices for non-US organizations seeking to comply with US export controls and sanctions regulations.

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In addition, George has successfully handled hundreds of internal investigations and voluntary disclosures involving possible or suspected violations of export controls (ITAR, EAR), sanctions (OFAC, EU sanctions), anticorruption (FCPA, UK Bribery Act) and customs matters. His experience in handling enforcement actions informs the standards of compliance in global compliance programs that we help develop for clients.

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Wolfgang Maschek is a highly respected  regulatory and public policy specialist, and leads our EU Public Policy Practice in Brussels.

Wolfgang was previously Senior Counsel and Vice-President for International Regulatory Affairs at Western Union, where he led the European regulatory and public affairs functions. Up until 2006, Wolfgang worked for the Austrian Central Bank where he was responsible for communication with the European institutions, for the European Commission and for the Oesterreichische Kontrollbank AG, Austria's main provider of...

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Dr. Robert MacLean has been practicing in Brussels for more than 20 years, a period including time in the European Commission’s Trade Defence Instruments directorate. He has been a partner in several major international law firms since 2001 before joining us in 2010. His trade client list spans a wide spectrum of EU and global industries ranging from traditional manufacturing to advanced IT-products and has included DG-Trade of the European Commission for whom he was the project leader for two significant evaluations of EU trade policy.


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