German minister to discuss aircraft subsidies with USTR Lighthizer

FILE PHOTO: German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier poses for a portrait during an interview with Reuters in his ministry building in Berlin
FILE PHOTO: German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier poses for a portrait during an interview with Reuters in his ministry building in Berlin, Germany, June 17, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

July 10, 2019

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said he would meet with U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Thursday to discuss efforts to settle a dispute over aircraft subsidies to U.S. planemaker Boeing <BA.N> and Europe’s Airbus <AIR.PA> before the World Trade Organization.

“The topic is complicated because the U.S. side has been empowered by the WTO to impose tariffs, and the European side will likely also be authorized in several months to impose tariffs. In our view it is in the interest of both sides to avoid these tit-for-tit tariffs,” he told reporters.

Altmaier said he had a “productive and constructive” meeting with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and the two sides discussed how to bridge their differences, reduce global tensions, ease trade disputes and maintain jobs in both Germany and the United States.

The German official said he would also meet with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

Altmaier said it was positive that trade tensions between Europe and the United States had not spiked over the past year, since European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and U.S. President Donald Trump agreed to start talks.

He said he thought it was possible to avoid escalation by tackling each of the many disputes on the table one by one.

According to Altmaier, he and Mnuchin discussed a range of issues including possibly boosting LNG gas exports from the United States to Europe, sanctions against Iran and other countries and prospects for intensifying cooperation on the issue of Ukraine and gas transfers.

“We are in the middle intensive discussions. For me, the Americans remain partners and friends despite our disagreements,” he said.

Altmaier cited great concern about recent developments in Iran and said Europe and the United States should work together to find ways to deescalate the situation.

All parties share an interest in ensuring that Iran returns to upholding the spirit and the letter of the 2015 nuclear agreement, he said. “Nothing else makes sense. Nothing else is in the interest of international stability,” he said.

European powers accused Iran on Tuesday of “pursuing activities inconsistent with its commitments” under the deal and called for an urgent meeting of the parties to the agreement to discuss Tehran’s compliance.

Britain, Germany, France, Russia, China and Iran are the remaining parties to the deal – known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPoA) – which was abandoned by the United States last year.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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