Fishkeeping gets caught-up in the middle of a 16 year aviation row between the EU and USA


As punishment for subsidising aviation company Boeing, the European Union (EU) are imposing tariffs on certain products from the United States of America (USA), including ornamental fish.

The feud has been rolling since 2006, when the USA filed a case with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) claiming unfair financial support of the European aviation brand, Airbus. Airbus, collectively owned by Germany, France, Spain and Britain’s BAE systems (a defence, security and aerospace company), was said to receive over £16 billion in illegal subsidies.

The EU’s retaliation was to lodge a counter case, alleging illegal financial support of the American aviation giant, Boeing, by the USA – to the tone of £17.3 billion.

In 2018, a two-year-old ruling was upheld by the WTO’s appeal body after EU subsidised loans for aircraft development by Airbus, was found to result in illegal assistance.

Through the years, the WTO has declared that both sides have unfairly subsidised their aviation brands.

In October 2019 the USA was allowed (by the WTO) to impose tariffs on produce from Europe, up to £5.64 billion ($7.5 billion).

Just 12 months later the WTO has allowed tariffs to be placed on produce from the USA, bound for Europe. Tariffs worth just over £3 billion.

With the USA withdrawing preferential tax rate for aerospace and aviation manufacturing, and the EU modifying repayment clauses, both sides now comply with WTO rulings. Both sides point the blame at the other. The Tariffs hurt both sides, especially now – with the additional financial pressures of a worldwide pandemic. Talks to resolve the dispute currently look unlikely as both sides blame the other of showing no interest in resolution.

What does this mean for UK fishkeepers?

If you are buying tractors, orange juice, Atlantic salmon or ornamental fish coming from the USA, you’ll be paying more for the pleasure.

The new tariffs will see a rise in price for both freshwater and marine fish from the USA, of 25%. That’s 25% of the full value - which includes the shipping costs. And for marine fish, that’s 25% on top of the existing 7.5% tariff already in place, pushing it to 32.5%.

It does seem that ornamental fish have been grouped with food fish, but inverts are left out of the trade sanctions – leaving corals and other invertebrates out of the price hike.

These tariffs are doing neither side any favours, and there is fresh hope that the forthcoming change of presidency may help reset talks in this 16-year-old rift.

What does it mean once the UK depart from the EU?

We are unsure right now. With American imports commonly coming through areas of the EU to the UK, we may still endure these tariffs. However, the sanctions set upon the USA do not include connecting flights - products travelling through the USA to Europe.