US and EU agree on first tariff cuts in two decades

US and EU trade representatives have unveiled the first set of agreed tariff reductions in more than 20 years in a move that could signal a thawing of trade relations between the two major global trade blocs.

United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and European Union Trade Commissioner Phil Hogan announced an agreement on a package of tariff reductions that they said will increase market access for hundreds of millions of dollars in US and EU exports, noting that these tariff reductions “are the first US-EU negotiated reductions in duties in more than two decades”.

Under the agreement, the EU will eliminate tariffs on imports of US live and frozen lobster products. US exports of these products to the EU were over $111 million in 2017.  The EU will eliminate these tariffs on a Most Favored Nation (MFN) basis, retroactive to begin 1 August 2020.  The EU tariffs will be eliminated for a period of five years and the European Commission will promptly initiate procedures aimed at making the tariff changes permanent.  

The United States will reduce by 50% its tariff rates on certain products exported by the EU worth an average annual trade value of $160 million, including certain prepared meals, certain crystal glassware, surface preparations, propellant powders, cigarette lighters, and lighter parts.  The U.S. tariff reductions will also be made on an MFN basis and retroactive to begin 1 August 2020.

“As part of improving EU-US relations, this mutually beneficial agreement will bring positive results to the economies of both the United States and the European Union.  We intend for this package of tariff reductions to mark just the beginning of a process that will lead to additional agreements that create more free, fair, and reciprocal transatlantic trade,” said Ambassador Lighthizer and Commissioner Hogan.


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