Photo: Lizzie Munro / PUNCH
Photo: Lizzie Munro / PUNCH

Tariffs: Now’s the time to speak up

Jon Bonné
Dec 19, 2019 · 3 min read

As many of you have now heard, the Trump administration is considering tariffs of up to 100 percent on wines from Europe. This was a possibility floated weeks ago, but in recent days, as the comment period and schedule has been finalized, it’s now clear this is a serious concern.

It’s also an existential threat to the broader U.S. wine industry — the thousands of people who import, distribute and sell these wines, as well as the thousands more who do logistical work: shipping, warehousing, etc. The proposal would have devastating impacts to professionals in every state.

In part that’s because these cuts also will impact far more than wine: whisky, most cheeses, olive oil and hundreds more products. A full list of EU products can be found at the bottom of this page, and a extensive list of specifically French goods can be found here.

These tariffs are not only small-minded and punitive, they’re also targeting the wrong people:

(1) The issues in dispute involve industries having nothing to do with food or beverage; and
(2) as many have noted, tariffs affect not the producers but the importers, i.e., Americans. We’re the ones who will be forced to pay, in the form of dramatically higher prices.

If you haven’t yet spoken up yet about the existing 25 percent tariffs, or the proposed 100 percent tariffs, now is the time to do so. I can’t stress this strongly enough. It is essential that the U.S. Trade Representative see the deep impacts this will have across the country.

I should also be clear: There are two proposed tariff actions at issue, which not everyone knows. I mention this because you should be sure to comment on both issues.

The first is retaliation for France’s proposed Digital Services Tax (DST), which would force tech giants to pay taxes they thus far have avoided. These tariffs are specific to French goods.

The comment period closed Jan. 6 but you can submit rebuttal comments here until January 14.

The second involves retaliation over subsidies for Airbus, which was the source of the 25 percent tariffs issued in October. These tariffs apply broadly to goods from most EU nations.

You can comment directly via the form here. The comment period closes Jan. 13.

In case you’re curious, these were my comments (PDF here):

Now, you don’t have to comment at this length! If you browse the comments re: either dispute, you’ll get a sense of the typical length and tone. Even a brief comment will be valuable in the debate.

And please, if you work in the industry, make sure to leave your name and affiliation. It’s important that the USTR see this is a trade war that will hurt real Americans — including many in states the Trump administration views as politically valuable. (Hey, Wisconsin! Hiya, Texas!)

You may also want to email your U.S. senator or representative to urge them to speak out against these tariffs.

If ever you’ve worked in wine or restaurants, or just enjoyed a bottle of French wine or Italian olive oil or Scotch whisky (or French makeup or china or handbags—the list is extensive) now is the time to speak up. This is a trade fight being waged badly, and asymmetrically, and we Americans will be the ones punished.

(Photo: Lizzie Munro)

Jon Bonné

Written by

Senior Contributing Editor at PUNCH. Author, `The New California Wine‘ and `The New Wine Rules.’ I drink things.

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