The World Trade Organization (WTO) gave the green light early last Wednesday, ruling that the United States could impose tariffs as retaliation for illegal aid that the 28-country EU gave to Airbus in its competition with its American rival Boeing. 

EU and US trade tariffs
© Ivan Marc /

Reported by TIME, this comes at the end of a 15-year struggle over the EU's subsidies to Airbus, and the tariffs won't end with the aviation industry. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said the Trump administration would be publishing a list of targeted products later on Wednesday or Thursday last week. 


President Trump calls the WTO ruling a "big win for the United States" and said that it happened because WTO officials "want to make sure I'm happy." Speaking to president Sauli Niinisto of Finland at a joint White House news conference, Trump went on to say: “The WTO has been much better to us since I’ve been president because they understand they can’t get away with what they’ve been getting away with for so many years, which is ripping off the United States.”

This move brings global economic uncertainty to an all-new high. These tariffs on different regions has already become apparent with Trump's trade war with Beijing, which weighs heavily on businesses – especially manufacturers. Now, with his eyes set on Europe, Trump is creating more economic strife. 

Tariffs On Goods

The US had already prepared a list of goods to tariff before Wednesday's ruling. This list includes EU cheeses, olives and whiskey, as well as helicopters, planes and aircraft parts. The tariffs, if the Trump administration makes them a reality, will take effect no earlier than mid-October 2019, due to the fact that a key WTO panel needs to formally sign off on them. These tariffs will have a significant impact on European agriculture and other economic sectors. Stock markets around the world are already down due to other trade wars – this news just added fuel to the fire, creating more lost economic growth.

Airbus And Boeing

In May 2018, the WTO ruled that the EU had illegally helped Airbus with subsidies. However, this trans-Atlantic dispute over aircraft has been going on for quite some time. WTO arbitrators are expected to rule next year about how much the EU can impose in tariffs following a separate decision that went against Boeing.


The EU's top official on trade said that the EU bloc would prefer to compromise with the United States to avoid a costly trade war, but that it would respond if US president Trump goes through with new duties on EU products. It remains to be seen if Trump uses tariffs to negotiate better settlements for the United States, or if he simply levies tariffs for the sake of tariffs.

An EU/US trade deal that will ease tensions and ward off other tariffs isn't very likely, because 2020 is a US election year, which usually don't see trade negotiations come to fruition.