In a gesture of goodwill toward the next American administration, the British government said Wednesday that it would lift tariffs on a range of American goods including tractors, ketchup and orange juice at the end of the month when the Brexit transition period ends.
The British government has set out its independent approach to a 16-year trade conflict between the European Union and the U.S. that was triggered by a dispute over public subsidies for rival airplane manufacturers Airbus /zigman2/quotes/208224336/delayed FR:AIR -1.12% /zigman2/quotes/210553709/delayed UK:0KVV -0.92% and Boeing /zigman2/quotes/208579720/composite BA -2.01% .
It said it would suspend retaliatory tariffs resulting from the Boeing dispute in what it described as “an effort to bring the U.S. towards a reasonable settlement and show that the U.K. is serious about reaching a negotiated outcome.”
It is however unclear whether the U.K. would have had a legal basis for the tariffs beyond Jan. 1 in any case, because the claimant in the long-running Boeing subsidies dispute with the U.S. is the EU, which Britain exits at the end of the year.
The EU was authorized by the World Trade Organization to slap tariffs on U.S. goods, but hopes are rising for a quick de-escalation of the subsidies dispute once President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20.
U.K. International Trade Secretary Liz Truss is hoping the gesture will be well-received by President-elect Joe Biden and that his administration will remove countertariffs, which include a Scotch whisky duty of 25% that was imposed in October of last year. This has led to a reduction in exports to the U.S.
She did add the caveat that the government reserves the right to reimpose the tariffs at any point if progress toward an agreeable settlement is not made.
Truss said in a statement: “As an independent trading nation once again, we finally have the ability to shape these tariffs to our interests and our economy, and to stand up for U.K. business.
“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.”
The lifting of tariffs will not extend to bourbon, motorcycles and jeans, which were levied by the EU in retaliation to duties applied on foreign steel and aluminum by President Donald Trump.
Truss said that to defend the U.K. steel industry she is rolling over tariffs “in response to the unjustified ‘Section 232’ tariffs imposed by the U.S. on aluminum and steel imports.” These tariffs will continue from Jan. 1 when the U.K. becomes an independent trading nation once again.
“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,” said Truss.