The list includes a 15 percent tariff on Boeing airplanes and a 25 percent tariff on a sweep of products including tractors, frozen shellfish, gin, suitcases, video game consoles, cotton and salmon.
The move is part of a 16-year dispute over whether Europe’s Airbus and America’s Boeing have been getting illegal state aid. It was the Bush administration that first complained to the World Trade Organization that Airbus was receiving illegal subsidies from E.U. governments. But the fight has taken a nastier tone under President Trump, who characterized the European Union as a “foe,” complaining about “what they do to us in trade.”
Last year, the United States levied $7.5 billion in tariffs on European goods — including French wine, Italian cheese and British cashmere — after the WTO ruled the European aeronautics giant had received illegal subsidies.
Last month, the WTO agreed with E.U. charges that Boeing had also benefited unfairly from state support, giving a green light for tariffs on U.S. goods.
German Economy Minister Peter Altmaier, who led the discussions Monday among the 27 E.U. nations, conveyed hope that the Biden administration “will contribute to world trade relations being more rules-based, being more multilateral, being less protectionist in the future.”
But Altmaier said E.U. ministers decided to move forward in part because the Biden trade team — and any accompanying change in U.S. policy — is unlikely to be in place until February or March.
“We are ready to withdraw or suspend our tariffs at any time when the U.S. is ready to do so on their side, whether it is the current or future U.S. administration,” he said.
Trump last month threatened swift retaliation.
“If they strike back, then we’ll strike much harder than they’ll strike,” he told reporters. “They don’t want to do anything, I can tell you that.”
His administration argued that E.U. tariffs would be illegitimate because the WTO ruling was related to subsidies from the government of Washington state that were eliminated earlier this year.
Biden’s approach to tariffs is not yet clear. The Obama administration tried to negotiate a free-trade agreement with the E.U., but discussions never led to a deal. Trump put an end to those talks, and the political climate is now far less friendly to such efforts.
E.U. trade ministers who approved the tariffs took pains Monday to say they did not intend the tariffs to be seen as escalatory.
“We are not escalating anything. We are exercising our rights as awarded by the WTO. We are just here mirroring the U.S. approach,” the E.U.’s top trade official, Valdis Dombrovskis, told reporters. “Removing these tariffs would be a win-win for both sides.”
Even as a lame duck, Trump could hit back.
The dispute about airplane subsidies is one of two ongoing trade fights with Europe. Trump in 2018 imposed a tariff on steel and aluminum imports, using an obscure provision of U.S. code that allows him to do so on issues of national security. European leaders, whose manufacturing industry was hit hard by the measures, decried the reasoning because most of them are longtime U.S. allies. The E.U. imposed a retaliatory set of tariffs that same year.
Some U.S. manufacturers said they feared the economic blow of the new E.U. measures. American whiskey exports to the E.U. were already down 41 percent since the bloc imposed 25 percent tariffs in 2018, said Chris Swonger, president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
“Additional tariffs will be a major blow to the U.S. spirits industry, especially craft distillers who are struggling to regain their footing following the closings of distillery tasting rooms, restaurants and bars due to covid-19,” he said in a statement.