Above: leading American wine professional Ceri Smith has mounted a campaign urging Americans to write their representatives in Congress and the U.S. Trade Representative asking them not to implement 100 percent tariffs on European wines. See links below.
“Imagine, you are a small importer of French/Italian wines,” writes wine retailer Ceri Smith, owner of the taste-making Biondivino wine shops in the Bay Area.
“You scour the regions to find the wine you want to work with. You develop the relationships with the winemakers. You place the order, pay up front, coordinate the shipment, the back labels, the FDA and all the other government rigmarole, pay all the taxes and duties, load the wine on the container and wait. 30 days while it is in transit. While you wait — the first round of 25% tariffs goes into affect — after your ship left. After you’ve pre-paid close to $200,000 for your container of wine. It lands and gets transferred to warehouse and then, you are told, you have to pay $50k on top of what you already have paid before your wine will be released. How [messed] up is that. Now imagine, if it were 100% tariffs.”
The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is currently considering whether or not to impose 100 percent tariffs on European wines — including French, Italian, Spanish, etc.
The deadline for citizens to share their concerns regarding the proposed duties with the USTR is Monday, January 13, 2020.
In its request for comment, it asks U.S. citizens to weigh in as to “whether maintaining or imposing additional duties on specific products of one or more specific EU member states would cause disproportionate economic harm to U.S. interests, including small or medium-size businesses and consumers.”
You can read the USTR “annex II” here, including the request for comment.
Before the New Year’s holiday, I asked a number of U.S. wine professionals to share their (well-founded) fears about the fallout from said tariffs should they be put into place. Here are just some of their responses, including passages culled from their comments submitted to the USTR.
Please join me, Ceri, and all our colleagues below in writing to your representatives in congress and to the USTR (links at the end of this post).
This is so disastrous that the consequences are hard to wrap my head around, but it looks life-threatening. David Lillie and I have spent 18 years building our business, and it could get wiped out in one blow; for better or worse we’ve tied our love of European wine to the life of our shop. We have 25 employees, many with families; we pay their health insurance; we pay a boatload of taxes. Chambers Street Wines is a micro business, but there are many thousands of employees and owners around the country who will be similarly affected — to say nothing of how this will impact our wine loving customers.
Chambers Street Wines (New York)
The proposed tariffs on all European wines will adversely impact not only our little enterprise here in the San Francisco Bay Area, but that of the hundred-plus importers and distributors with whom we work. The various local, American-owned importer companies will be decimated by doubling the price of the wines they offer. Now consider the impact on the people who work for those companies… if sales diminish to near ZERO, sales reps will have to find another means of employment. Now let’s consider the ramifications on the little independent, “Mom & Pop” (Daughter & Son) wineries who rely on a significant percentage of their sales to the U.S. market and you’ll have put thousands (perhaps millions) of people in dire economic straits. Now factor in the myriad of other goods apart from wine on which such tariffs are being considered. Can the world economy sustain such a financial disaster?
Weimax Wine & Spirits (Burlingame)
My 73-year-old business is not being helped by these tariffs, but [they] will cause the slow-down of business which is entwined with imported products. That may cause me to lay off employees due to business decline. It seems that Mr. Trump wants to hand out with one hand and snatch away with the other.
A senior wine trade member (California)
Field Blend Selections employs five people (two partners, one full-time salesperson, and two part-time salespeople). We lease office space in New York City and warehouse space in New Jersey. We utilize various American logistics companies to transport wine across the country and overseas. We contract warehouse services, truck drivers, and delivery people through our warehouse to deliver our products. Those products are then sold in over 275 restaurants and retail shops in New York and New Jersey, which rely upon our company and these items to sell to their guests and customers. Our industry is built on hundreds of other similar companies that support jobs across the economic spectrum — warehouse worker to wine salesperson, retail associate to delivery driver. And together, these companies provide a choice to consumers that ensures quality and value.
Field Blend Selections (New York)
I’ve been talking to my controller about [the possibility that] these tariffs will be doubled. It’s doomsday for everyone! If this [mess] takes effect, I will be out of business [as will] every company like mine.
Vignaioli Selections (New York)
Please join me and each of the wine professionals quoted here in writing to your representatives in the U.S. government, including the U.S. Trade Representative. Thank you.
To your senators (via the National Association of Wine Retailers):
To your congressperson (via the National Association of Wine Retailers):
To the United States Trade Representative: