France fury: MEP rages at Trump-style protectionism over crushing tariffs before EU praise

“No to blind protectionism; yes to a Europe that protects. The EU is coming to the aid of wine producers hit by American sanctions,” Mme Loiseau tweeted after the bloc’s agriculture commissioner Phil Hogan said Brussels would help EU winemakers enter new markets in an effort to reduce their reliance on the United States. In a letter addressed to French agriculture minister Didier Guillaume, Mr Hogan said the bloc would co-finance promotion operations in a bid to help France export its wine towards new markets, but also boost exports to established markets such as China.

The announcement comes after the World Trade Organisation (WTO) formally authorised the US to impose tariffs on up to $7.5 billion (£5.8 billion) of imports of EU goods after an arbitrator’s decision over subsidies to aeroplane maker Airbus.

The Airbus ruling marked the first time the WTO has cleared Washington to impose countermeasures on EU products under international trade law.

The Trump administration swiftly slapped 25 percent tariffs on scores of EU goods including French wine, Italian cheese, Spanish olives and single-malt Scotch whisky – but spared Italian wine, pasta and olive oil. 

The sanctions came into force on October 18.

Paris immediately slammed the punishing tariffs on French wines as “deeply unfair,” while Brussels warned they would only end up hurting American consumers’ wallets.

Commission spokesman Daniel Rosario said: “This is a move that will first and foremost hit US consumers and companies, and will make efforts towards a negotiated settlement more complicated”.

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire, for his part, warned shortly ahead of the WTO ruling that the US tariffs would “have very negative consequences from both an economic and political point of view”.

M Le Maire said: “I think this will not be in the interest of the US, it would not be in the interest of the EU, and it would have, of course, negative consequences on the level of the world growth.”

Brussels has vowed to retaliate with tough tariffs of its own in a parallel WTO case that the bloc brought against the US for illegally subsiding American planemaker Boeing. The ruling for the EU case is expected in early 2020.

The Brussels bloc has its own list of US products it could target in the Boeing case.

European officials had offered in July to call a truce on subsidies for the rival aeroplane makers, in which both sides would admit fault and agree to curtail state aid – to no avail.

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