Incoming European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said at his confirmation hearing recently that there were only thirteen EU-US trade disputes before the World Trade Organisation, but it was "thirteen too many". If the European Parliament allows him to take over the job on November 1, he faces a real challenge in eliminating them.

In the run-up to his assumption of office, it seems hardly a day goes by without a new increase in transatlantic trade tension.

The dispute over subsidies for Boeing and Airbus has driven both sides into the nuclear option of tit-for-tat complaints to the WTO. The US has recently taken the EU to the WTO for divergent customs rules that hamper trade. Just this week Madrid has irritated the European Commission by planning talks on an open skies agreement with the US. And in a smaller-scale aviation row, EU apiarists have won a ban on US bees invading European airspace.

The US response to its defeat on its foreign sales tax breaks may ease some of the tensions - but only when the offending legislation is actually withdrawn. Meanwhile, the US request for rapid lifting of the EU's retaliatory sanctions has not gone down well in Brussels. Similarly, real results are still awaited from US moves to end another long-standing object of EU anger, the "Byrd Amendment" anti-dumping law.

And Mario Monti's recent hints that the EU might align its...

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