U.S., EU hatch mini-deal to cut lobster, other tariffs

BRUSSELS, Aug 21 (Reuters) - The United States and the European Union have hatched a mini-deal to cut imports tariffs on a small range of products, including U.S. lobsters, in a sign of an easing of transatlantic trade tensions.

The two, who have been in dispute over aircraft subsidies and U.S. President Donald Trump’s imposition of punitive tariffs on EU steel and aluminium, announced the deal in a joint statement on Friday.

“The importance of the deal is that it has unleashed positive results elsewhere,” and EU official said.

Under the agreement, the European Union will remove tariffs of 8%-12% on imports of lobsters, while the United States will halve its duties on imports of certain glassware, ceramics, disposable lighters and prepared meals.

To comply with World Trade Organization rules, the lowered and removed tariffs will apply to all WTO members, although the products have been chosen so as to maximise the mutual benefits.

The whole deal is worth some 168 million euros ($198 million), based on 2019 trade. The EU imported some 42 million euros of U.S. lobsters and exported to the United States 126 million euros of the other products involved. The apparent mismatch is partly because the United States will only be halving, not removing, tariffs.

Lobsters have been deliberately chosen to appeal to Trump, who threatened in June to impose tariffs on Europe and China over lobster duties.

The agreement will still need approval from EU governments and the European Parliament. That could come within weeks.

Washington has subjected $7.5 billion of EU products, including Scottish whisky, French wine and EU cheese, to tariffs because of a WTO case it won over EU subsidies given to planemaker Airbus and had threatened to increase them.

However, it carried out only very modest changes last week. The European Commission, which oversees trade policy in the 27-member EU, said this meant the United States was not exacerbating the situation.

It has also noted the U.S. comment that it is committed to resolving the aircraft dispute, which also includes U.S. subsidies given to Boeing. ($1 = 0.8495 euros) (Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Hugh Lawson)