EU is 'very concerned' by delayed WTO decision on tariffs vs U.S.

FILE PHOTO: U.S. and European Union flags are pictured during the visit of Vice President Mike Pence to the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium February 20, 2017. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A delay to a decision on whether the European Union can impose tariffs against the United States over subsidies for Boeing BA.N is unjustified and harms the bloc's right to retaliate, the European Commission said on Thursday.

The World Trade Organization has pushed back the decision, originally expected in May or June, to at least September due to the impact that recent coronavirus lockdowns are having on its work, people familiar with the case told Reuters on Wednesday.

“The EU is very concerned about this and we have communicated this to the WTO,” a Commission spokesman said.

“We believe that the delay would not be justified, even in the context of COVID-19 and that it would be detrimental to the EU’s retaliatory rights under WTO rules,” he continued.

The United States already won the right last October to impose tariffs on $7.5 billion of EU goods in a related case over subsidies for European planemaker Airbus AIR.PA.

The European Union says it wants to reach an agreement with Washington over plane subsidies to set aside the dispute. However, observers do not believe that will happen until the WTO awards the EU the right to impose tariffs.

The U.S. tariffs target planes, olives, tools and whisky from Airbus-producing countries Britain, France, Germany and Spain and cheese, wine and pork from across the bloc.

It increased the tariff rates in February and is now looking at an additional list of $3.1 billion worth of products such as bakery goods, beer, gin and vodka from the four countries that it could impose duties on next.

Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by Jonathan Oatis