“Any additional tariffs will basically put a nail in the coffin,” said one of the nation’s top French wine buyers in a text late last week.
“I have known Americans who lost jobs as a direct result of tariffs,” he told me. “But [I] have yet to hear of any French wineries letting people go due to tariffs. [Because of] COVID yes, tariffs, no.”
As the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) considers new, expanded, and increased tariffs on European wines, U.S. wine importers, distributors, retailers and wine -focused restaurateurs face the prospect of even more layoffs. And if implemented, the new round of tariffs would come at a time when they are already under extreme strain due to the ongoing pandemic.
Last year, the USTR imposed 25 percent duties on French wine in response to the World Trade Organization ruling that the European Union had violated the terms of its agreement with the U.S. when it subsidized the production of the Airbus.
On August 12, the USTR will announce its decision to augment the current tariffs. These could include tariffs of up to 100 percent and they could be expanded to include Italian wines as well (currently, only wines from the Airbus partner countries are affected).
The 2019 tariffs (still in place) have already had a devastating effect on the U.S. wine trade.
They were intended to impact European wine growers. Whether or not they have achieved the desired outcome is debatable. But anecdotally it seems that they have caused minimal economic pain in European wine country.
The economic pain inflicted on U.S. small businesses, on the other hand, has been acute.
The U.S. Wine Trade Alliance (USWTA), a consortium of small business owners formed last year in response to the tariffs, argues that the USTR duties are more harmful to American small businesses than they are to European wine growers. And the harm they do is exacerbated and amplified by the fact that closures due to the current health crisis (with no end in sight) has practically decimated a generation of U.S. wine professionals.
The USTR is currently accepting public comments on potential new and expanded tariffs (see below). The deadline for comment is July 26.
See the of possible new, expanded, and increased tariffs here (Annex II).
You can find the USTR comment portal here.
Before you comment, please be sure to read the USWTA guidelines for commenting here.
Beyond adding a comment to the USTR portal, here are some of things you can do to support the USWTA campaign as we await the USTR decision:
– become a USWTA member here (by filling out the form, you will be added to the mailing list);
– follow the USWTA Instagram and Twitter and please join the Facebook group;
– share, retweet, and repost USWTA media, and encourage your employees, colleagues, and peers to do the same.