USA threatens $11bn tariffs on European Union goods including wine and cheese

The preliminary list contains a number of products in the civil aviation sector including Airbus aircraft

A Boeing spokesman said the company: "Supports the US trade representative and his team in their ongoing efforts to level the playing field in the global aircraft marketplace".

The United States is threatening to impose tariffs on European goods worth billions of dollars, intensifying a long-running dispute over aircraft subsidies.

The E.U. has begun preparations for retaliation, an E.U. official told Reuters Tuesday.

"When I see the situation global growth is in, I don't think we can afford to have a trade conflict, even if only on the specific issues of the aircraft industry in the United States and Europe", he said.

The proposed measures are relatively minor compared with the U.S.'s ongoing trade war with China, in which the two sides have imposed tariffs on about $360 billion of each other's goods in the past nine months.

After ending negotiations on the Transatlantic and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the proposed trade agreement between the U.S. and EU, Trump imposed steel and aluminum tariffs on the EU and a number of other countries.

Airbus said it saw no legal basis for the US move and warned of deepening transatlantic trade tensions.

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The WTO has found that the European Union provided Airbus with subsidies for almost 4o years.

Jennifer Hillman, a former USA trade official who also served on the WTO's appellate body, said the US government typically would announce the target list quietly, perhaps through a notice in the Federal Register.

The list is subject to public comment in anticipation of an expected World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling this summer that would be favourable to the USA in a pending arbitration case. It will now start a consultation with industry representatives on the list of European Union goods it wants to tax so that it can have a ready list.

The EU responded Tuesday to the U.S.'s latest call for new tariffs by noting that it was based on its own estimate, not anything it had been awarded by the WTO. The EU responded with tariffs on about 2.8 billion euros' worth ($3.4 billion) of US steel, agricultural and other products, from Harley Davidson bikes to orange juice. Some auto manufacturers, including Toyota's Jim Lentz, have warned that it could reconsider up to $750 million in USA investments in five Southern states if the tariff talks aren't resolved.

The USTR's statement also comes as Boeing faces a crisis over its 737 MAX aircraft, which is grounded over safety fears following two fatal accidents. The WTO calculated that Airbus received some $18 billion in subsidies from European Union member states between 1968 and 2006.

Tariffs on European airplanes could in theory help Boeing and hurt Airbus, whose shares were down 1.5 per cent on Tuesday on a day when stock markets were trading higher.

European officials underscored the option of reaching a negotiated solution with the US that would avoid an escalation with tit-for-tat tariffs.

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