Late yesterday, I had the chance to speak with Pecorino Toscano Consortium president Andrea Righini about the new U.S. tariffs on Italian cheese — part of the U.S. government’s ongoing trade war with the EU.
Andrea was stressed, as you can imagine. He’d been on the phone all day with frantic consortium members trying to figure out how the punitive tariffs are going to affect their livelihood.
Over the course of our conversation, he pointed out that Italy has nothing to do with the illegal subsidies that prompted the U.S. “countermeasures” against EU countries. In fact, “France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom [are] the four countries responsible,” wrote the Office of the United States Trade Representative in a post on its website on Wednesday.
The whole affair was borne out of a “dispute with the European Union over illegal subsidies to Airbus.” But the only countries who profited from those subsidies were those listed above.
“We need to remember that these sanctions are the result of dealings that have nothing to do with Italy,” said Andrea. [If the tariffs were imposed] “the consortium would pay for damages it didn’t cause.”
He also talked at length about how the new import duties are going to affect the local economy in Tuscany, including Pecorino producers, their employees, and the shepherds that supply the milk. The surplus of unsold cheese and the drop in the price of sheep’s milk will be disastrous, he explained.
“All of these things are connected to one another,” he said. “It’s not just a matter of how much product you sell.”
American importers, retailers, and restaurateurs will also be affected. Last night I spoke to an Italian chef here in Houston who noted how the tariffs will impact his business: the food cost for his Cacio e Pepe — one of the most popular dishes on his menu — will also increase by 25 percent.
Ultimately, consumers will also feel the pinch. We grate a lot of cheese for pasta at our house and our daughters often eat Parmigiano Reggiano for a treat after dinner or after school.
Trade wars seem far-away… until they come to your town.
Click here for my interview with Andrea and be sure to enjoy your pasta with cheese this weekend.