Ketchup, handbags and consoles among US imports facing tariffs

Tomato ketchup, handbags and video game consoles are among the US imports facing EU tariffs, as the European bloc hit back in the latest twist in the transatlantic dispute over aircraft subsidies.

The European commission threatened to impose tariffs on US imports worth $20bn (£15.3bn) on Wednesday, publishing an 11-page catalogue of items at risk, which also included aircraft and tractors, following a World Trade Organization ruling against Washington last month.

The EU was responding after Donald Trump last week issued a seven-page list of European products to target for tariffs, from large aircraft to dairy products and wine, to counteract $11bn of harm the US government claims subsidies for plane manufacturer Airbus have caused. This also followed a WTO ruling against Airbus subsidies.

“The EU has taken advantage of the US on trade for many years. It will soon stop,” Trump tweeted last week.

The EU counter-claims that tax breaks to Boeing, along with unfair procurement practices, have caused $12bn worth of damage to Airbus. The two sides have been battling for almost 15 years at the WTO over the subsidies given to Boeing and Airbus.

The EU’s trade commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, said she wanted to avoid a tit-for-tat trade war with Washington, and called for Trump to come to the negotiating table. “European companies must be able to compete on fair and equal terms,” she said. “The recent WTO ruling on US subsidies for Boeing is important in this respect. 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 longstanding dispute.

“The EU remains open for discussions with the US, provided these are without preconditions and aim at a fair outcome.”

The commission’s list is now open to consultation, to allow those impacted to make their pitch for a rethink.

Arbitrators at the WTO have yet to set the costs that either the US or the EU might seek to recover through tariffs, but Washington’s case against Airbus is more advanced and a ruling is expected in June or July.

Asked to justify the targeting of consumer items, a move that would likely increase prices in shops, an EU official said they had sought to hit products where there was a European alternative.

“European consumers shouldn’t be radically affected by our countermeasures,” the official said. “Composing a list is a complex exercise and reaching such a big amount is difficult. We can’t have a list of this magnitude without a very high number of products. We’re not in favour of a trade war, we are not looking for a trade war, they’re bad.”