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Thousands Of Wineries & Grapegrowers Formally Voice Concern Over Wine Tariffs

January 7, 2020

Original content: Forbes
By Jill Barth

Members of the Wine Origins Alliance yesterday submitted a jointly signed letter for the US Trade Representative’s (USTR) public comment period on tariffs in response to aircraft subsidies and France’s Digital Services Tax.

The United States on December 2, 2019 threatened to impose tariffs of up to 100 percent on $2.4 billion in French goods in retaliation for a digital services tax it says is discriminatory.
(Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)

This action was followed by a second letter sent to Commissioner Phil Hogan, the European Commission’s Commissioner for Trade. The letters urge cooperation with leaders of the European Union to reduce barriers to wine trade and to “exclude wine and sparkling wine products from your tariff countermeasures list.”

The Wine Origins Alliance includes 28 organizations from 11 countries and five continents. According to the organization, “members represent nearly 80,000 wineries and grape growers that have generated more than 900,000 jobs and more than $8 billion in global wine exports.”

“Wine promotes peace and prosperity given its historical role in bringing nations together in commemorative moments of international understanding,” the Alliance wrote. “The United States and the European Union are the two leading wine producers in the world, collectively exporting $28 billion in 2018.”

The letter is in opposition to proposed “up to 100%” tariffs on certain products Americans purchase from Europe, which are being considered as a tactic in response to France’s new digital services tax and the European Union’s subsidies to Airbus. This is in addition to a tariff climb of 25%, announced in October 2019.

Mark Wilcox with bottles
Mark Wilcox of Ansonia Wines at work in France. COURTESY ANSONIA WINES

The messaging sent by the Wine Origins Alliance joins a chorus from many other professionals in the wine industry. 

Ansonia Wines, a father and son importer of small-batch wines from France, has issued a call to action from their customers. The proposed tariffs could “have potentially catastrophic consequences for hardworking family businesses on both sides of the Atlantic,” states the Ansonia Wines website. “Everyone – French winemakers, consumers, transporters, importers, retailers, restaurants, and more – stands to lose from these tariffs.”

Natural Merchants, a family-owned wine import company, has published an article on their website on the matter. “The likely outcome would be the survival of only major corporate entities in all three tiers of the wine industry who have the capital to absorb the price increase without passing it along, or the clout to be able to navigate their way around the tariffs,” states Natural Merchants. “This will effectively kill or greatly hamper all small-mid-sized, family owned and operated businesses, resulting in the loss of hundreds of thousands of US jobs.”

The USTR has asked the public to comment on these actions during a period wrapping up on January 13, 2020. Citizens are invited to submit their comments on the topic, including weather these actions “would cause disproportionate economic harm to U.S. interests, including small or medium-size businesses and consumers.” A list of items concerned and a link to submit comments can be found here.

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