Britain said Tuesday that it would impose retaliatory tariffs on American aluminum and steel imports when it separated from the European Union on Jan. 1, but that it had decided to forgo any tariffs against the United States as part of a long-running trade dispute over aircraft subsidies.
The decision comes as Britain prepares to take over control of its own trade policy as it departs the European Union. The moves are an attempt to calm trade tensions with the United States and pave the way for their future trading relations, the British government said.
“Ultimately, we want to de-escalate the conflict and come to a negotiated settlement so we can deepen our trading relationship with the U.S. and draw a line under all this,” Liz Truss, Britain’s international trade secretary, said in a statement. “We are protecting our steel industry against illegal and unfair tariffs — and will continue to do so — but are also showing the U.S. we are serious about ending a dispute that benefits neither country.”
The tariffs on American aluminum and steel would be imposed in retaliation for President Trump’s decision in 2018 to place levies on metals from Europe and elsewhere. The European Union has already imposed retaliatory tariffs on American goods like steel bars, whiskey and orange juice, but with Britain now separating from the bloc, it will impose its own tariffs.
The United States and Europe have also placed tariffs on each other in response to twin trade cases at the World Trade Organization over airplane subsidies. One trade case authorized the United States to tax European goods to recoup losses sustained from subsidies the European Union provided to Airbus, while another case allowed Europe to put tariffs on the United States in response to subsidies given to Boeing.
Both sides have said they are interested in negotiating a settlement.
In its announcement, the British government said it would begin a process to consult with British businesses and ensure its tariffs on American metals were tailored to the British economy.
It said that it was suspending the Boeing tariffs “in an effort to bring the U.S. toward a reasonable settlement and show the U.K. is serious about reaching a negotiated outcome,” but that it reserved the right to impose tariffs again if such a compromise could not be reached.
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