French President Emmanual Macron on the phone with US President-elect Joe Biden on November 10, 2020 at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France.
Ian Langsdon | Reuters
French President Emmanuel Macron suggested to President Joe Biden two weeks ago that, according to a person familiar with the matter, the countries seek a negotiated solution to the Boeing-Airbus conflict over aircraft construction, which has lasted almost two decades.
According to the person familiar with the call, Biden said the relevant teams would follow up but was non-committal about the outcome. For some time now efforts have been made to find a solution.
None of the country’s official readings made mention of the long simmering trade dispute, which dates back to Biden’s days as senator and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.
“Airbus supports all necessary measures to create a level playing field and continues to support the EU’s commitment to finding a negotiated solution to this longstanding dispute to avoid tariffs,” Airbus said in a statement sent by email.
The White House and the US sales representative’s office could not be reached for comment prior to the release. A Boeing representative did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Since 2004, Boeing and Airbus have been embroiled in a lawsuit over what each side sees as unfair tax subsidies by Washington State and the European Union.
The World Trade Organization has made positive decisions for each side at different stages, ordering the United States and the European Union to offset the benefits of their rivals by levying tariffs on goods totaling $ 11.5 billion. Since then, each side has decided to withdraw the tax subsidies after hearing the dispute.
“We really have no choice but to reach an agreement,” said Marjorie Chorlins, senior vice president for European affairs at the US Chamber of Commerce. “The last government worked in good faith to resolve these issues but failed to close the deal.”
In addition, the pandemic has weighed on demand for air travel and thus also for the purchase of large civil aircraft – which further exacerbates the effects on two manufacturers who have incurred legal costs of several hundred million dollars since the start of the dispute.
Macron’s hovering of a possible deal shows how high a priority France and the EU are in considering resetting transatlantic relations under the new administration.
“Our aim is to find solutions to our ongoing trade disputes, including at Airbus / Boeing,” said Sophie Dirven, spokeswoman for the European Commission.
Biden has also sought to reset diplomatic relations with allies after the controversial Trump years.
The decision on whether to reach an agreement would land on the plate of the USTR, which had previously waived tariffs on $ 7.5 billion in European goods, including German machinery, Italian cheeses and French wines.
In the past few days, the U.S. sales representative’s office has announced a list of staff appointments as it awaits a confirmation hearing on USTR candidate Katherine Tai, which is expected to take place no earlier than the week of February 22nd.
Officials have raised the issue with other cabinet members who have been confirmed.
In a telephone conversation between Finance Minister Janet Yellen and the French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on January 28, Le Maire insisted “particularly on the very punitive nature of the sanctions for French winemakers”, according to the Paris ad.
– CNBC’s Leslie Josephs contributed to this report.