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EU looks beyond new tariffs to bigger trade deal

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EU looks beyond new tariffs to bigger trade deal
FILE PHOTO: German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz is pictured in his office during an interview with Reuters in Berlin, Germany, October 15, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo   -   Copyright  FABRIZIO BENSCH(Reuters)
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By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – European officials struck a measured tone on Friday after the United States imposed new 10% and 25% tariffs on some European Union goods over aircraft subsidies, with a top German official warning against steps that could escalate the tensions.

German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz on Friday said European Union officials were working intensively to hammer out a broader trade deal with the United States and avert additional, potentially far more devastating tariffs on European-built cars.

Asked about new U.S. tariffs on up to $7.5 billion worth of EU airplanes, cheese, wine and other imports that took effect on Friday, Scholz said he favoured a “firm, clear and decisive” approach that did not further escalate the situation.

“I think it will work at the end of the day,” he told reporters during the IMF/World Bank annual meetings.

In Brussels, EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom said the EU would respond with its own tariffs “in due course” when its own case against Boeing <BA.N> is adjudicated in early 2020.

Despite some initial suggestions it could do so, there was no move by Brussels to impose any immediate retaliatory tariffs against the United States under earlier WTO rulings.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Friday said the EU was working on measures to compensate sectors hit by the new U.S. duties and “limit damages for those directly hit.”

The WTO has found that both Airbus <AIR.PA> and its U.S. rival Boeing received billions of dollars of illegal subsidies in a pair of cases that have run for 15 years. The U.S. tariffs on $7.5 billion of EU imports took effect Friday.

The WTO’s dispute settlement body on Monday cleared Washington to take the record countermeasures against the EU and Airbus-producing countries Britain, France, Germany and Spain.

The actions include 10% duties on Airbus planes and additional 25% duties on a wide swath of French wine, Scottish whiskies and cheeses from across Europe.

Fifteen international beverage groups on Friday urged the U.S. and EU governments to end the tariffs.

“Our industries are collateral damage in trade disputes that have nothing to do with the beverage alcohol sector,” the groups said in a statement. “This new round of tariffs will further damage a transatlantic industry that has already been negatively impacted by the EU’s retaliatory tariff on American Whiskey.”

They said the new U.S. tariffs on EU spirits and wines could result in the loss of 8,000 good-paying jobs across the U.S. beverage alcohol sector, from importers, distributors, wholesalers, to the hospitality sector.

U.S. President Donald Trump and other U.S. officials have recently downplayed tensions with Brussels, raising the prospect that they could once again delay threatened national security tariffs against European cars. A decision is due by Nov. 14.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal in Washington, Francesco Guarascio and Marine Strauss in Brussels, and Guarasc; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Daniel Wallis)

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