Biden Trade Pick Will Seek End To Boeing-Airbus Dispute

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President Joe Biden's pick to be the top US trade negotiator said Thursday she will seek to find a solution to the costly, longstanding fight over subsidies for Boeing and Airbus.

The 16-year-old trans-Atlantic conflict over government aid to the competing aircraft manufacturers has seen Brussels and Washington each impose punitive tariffs, including US duties on a record $7.5 billion in European goods authorized by the World Trade Organization in 2019.

"I would very much be interested in figuring out, pardon the pun, how to land this particular plane because it has been going on for a very long time," Katherine Tai told senators during her confirmation hearing to serve as US Trade Representative.

Tai acknowledged the "disruption and the pain" the tariffs cause, but said that is how the WTO process is designed to work.

"You inflict pain on each other stakeholders to try to motivate each other to come to a resolution."

But she said there is "the need for the US and EU to come together to figure out an answer."

Katherine Tai, nominee for US Trade Representative, testifies before the Senate Finance Committee Katherine Tai, nominee for US Trade Representative, testifies before the Senate Finance Committee  POOL / Bill O'Leary

Tai also agreed that the WTO should be reformed, a view shared by her predecessor, who effectively paralyzed the trade body's dispute settlement system.

"We need to be having hard conversations in Geneva, in a constructive way to be asking, what is the value of the WTO to its members," Tai said.

Each side has won WTO rulings in the aviation dispute that authorized punitive tariffs.

The Biden administration earlier this month said that for now it will keep in place the 25 percent tariffs on European products like wine, cheese and olive oil, and 15 percent tariffs on Airbus.

In January the US imposed new duties on aircraft parts, wine, cognac and brandies from France and Germany.

The EU in November levied additional customs duties on $4 billion worth of American products including Boeing planes and also farm produce, such as wheat and tobacco, plus strong alcohol and chocolate.

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