‘We will do the opposite!’ EU fury at US as Trump continues trade war despite coronavirus

Washington insisted it was pressing ahead with its plan to raise import tariffs on European aircraft from 10 percent to 15 percent, sparking outrage in Brussels. The confirmation from the US came just 24 hours after Mr Trump and other G7 leaders vowed to remain “committed to the stability of the global economy” and pledged to “coordinate measures and do whatever it takes” to safeguard economic growth.

One would think that any rational person would seek to stabilise trade and reassure markets

EU diplomat

Airlines are among the hardest-hit econmic casualties of the global coronavirus crisis and the industry slump is sending shockwaves through its supply chain.

But Mr Trump appears unwilling to end the trade war despite the enormous strain on the global economy and warnings from industry that government measures to contain the pandemic, such as travel bans, are already impacting global trade.

EU officials reacted with astonishment when Washington confirmed the tariff rises.

One senior Brussels official said: “Faced with a global pandemic and global recession one would think that any rational person would seek to stabilise trade and reassure markets.”

MEP Christophe Hansen warned “fanning the flames of the trade war” was an “irresponsible and a dangerous distraction from the fight that really matters today.”

He said international co-operation was the key to a global recovery and warned Washington’s decision “will only further undermine our already tense trade relations.”

EU boss Ursula von der Leyen and Brussels trade commission chief Phil Hogan had tried to head off a trade war with a package of mini-deals in sectors such as technology, energy and food regulation.

But the Mr Trump appears to have dismissed the peace offering as he presses ahead with his efforts to shake up global trade in a bid to bring manufacturing jobs back to the US.

According to the US Federal Register, the tariff hike took effect “with respect to products that are entered for consumption on or after 12:01 a.m. eastern standard time on March 18, 2020.”

A furious EU said its “strong view is that the focus of both sides should be on finding a negotiated solution to the aircraft disputes”.

A spokesman said: “Phil Hogan made this point strongly to Ambassador Robert Lighthizer when they spoke on March 16.

“The Commission negotiating team will follow up actively with their US counterparts in the coming days.”

The new higher tariffs are unlikely to have any additional effect on Airbus in the short term, given that US airlines have already delayed orders over the coronavirus travel bans.

International organisations such as the OECD have warned of a global recession and urged governments to co-operate to soften the blow and calm markets.

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Figures from the Johns Hopkins University in the US show there are 215,955 coronavirus cases globally and 8,749 deaths.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said 80 percent of all cases had beeb reported across Europe and the Western Pacific region, which includes much of Asia.

In Britain, 104 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus and tens of thousands of people are thought to be infected.

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