USTR's Tai tells European officials she wants 'more positive' trade ties

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai on Monday told European officials she wanted to develop “a more positive and productive” trade relationship with Europe, despite disputes over aircraft subsidies and digital services taxes, USTR said.

FILE PHOTO: Katherine C. Tai addresses the Senate Finance committee hearings to examine her nomination to be United States Trade Representative, with the rank of Ambassador, in Washington, DC February 25, 2021. Bill O'Leary/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

Tai and Spain’s Industry Minister Reyes Maroto agreed in a phone call to “strengthen U.S.-Spanish collaboration on mutual interests,” including resolving a 17-year dispute over subsidies to Airbus and Boeing, USTR said in a statement.

The two also discussed Spain’s digital services tax and the problem of excess steel and aluminum capacity that has resulted in U.S. tariffs on imports of the metals, and committed to “finding mutually beneficial outcomes.”

Earlier in the day, Tai discussed her desire for better European Union ties with Margrethe Vestager, the EU’s competition commissioner.

The two officials agreed to work together on priorities such as climate change, the digital economy and strengthening U.S.-EU cooperation to deal with large, non-market economies such as China, USTR said.

Tai last week said she was proceeding with preparations for potential tariffs against goods from Spain, Austria, Britain, Italy, India and Turkey over digital services taxes imposed by those countries. USTR also is maintaining a tariff threat in retaliation for France’s digital tax.

In a separate call, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen spoke with French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire about the importance of resolving the digital tax dispute through OECD negotiations.

Vestager has long been an advocate for Europe to be a leader in ensuring that technology giants such as Google, Facebook and Apple pay their fair share of taxes in the region.

USTR investigations launched by the Trump administration found that digital taxes imposed by the six countries and France discriminate against the U.S. tech firms.

Tai said on Friday that her move to seek public comments on potential tariffs would preserve U.S. options in case a global consensus on taxes could not be reached.

USTR said Tai agreed with both Vestager and Maroto to engage on a regular basis.

Reporting by David Lawder; Additional reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Leslie Adler and Sonya Hepinstall