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LONDON/WASHINGTON: The United States agreed a four-month suspension of retaliatory tariffs imposed on British goods such as Scotch whisky over a long-running aircraft subsidy row, with both sides pledging to use the time to resolve the dispute.

The US administration under former president Donald Trump had imposed tariffs on an array of European Union food, wine and spirits, including on Scotch whisky, which the industry says had put its future at risk.

Britain is party to the dispute as a former member of the EU.

“The United Kingdom and the United States are undertaking a four-month tariff suspension to ease the burden on industry and take a bold, joint step towards resolving the longest running disputes at the World Trade Organization,” a joint statement said.

“This will allow time to focus on negotiating a balanced settlement to the disputes, and begin seriously addressing the challenges posed by new entrants to the civil aviation market from non-market economies, such as China.”

The tariff truce is separate from broader US-UK talks on a post-Brexit trade agreement, but sends a positive signal about those discussions.

Britain and the United States were hoping to reach a trade deal before the expiration of fast-track trade promotion authority granted to the US federal government by Congress in July.

In order to hit that deadline, US trade officials would have to notify Congress about their intention to seal a deal sometime in April.

The multi-billion dollar tit-for-tat tariff battle between the United States, the European Union and Britain relates to a long-running row over state subsidies for planemakers Airbus and Boeing.

Airbus spokesman Clay McConnell welcomed the suspension of what he called “lose-lose tariffs” and said the company supports all efforts to reach an agreement.

Airbus builds wings and other parts in Britain, but assembles its commercial aircraft in the EU.

US planemaker Boeing said: “A negotiated settlement will allow the industry to move forward with a genuinely global level playing field for aviation.”

Ivan Menezes, CEO of Diageo, the maker of Johnnie Walker and Talisker whisky said a permanent solution would help safeguard thousands of jobs across Scotland and the rest of Britain.—Reuters

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