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Wine Spectator: Importers, Retailers Look To New Administration For Tariff Relief

January 13, 2021

The presidential inauguration is approaching, but the pain is not going away anytime soon for many European winemakers and the American businesses that sell their wines. As a parting gift to them, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer announced additional tariffs on New Year’s Eve, part of the ongoing fight with the European Union over subsidies to airplane manufacturers.

When Lighthizer imposed 25% tariffs in October 2019 on wines from France, Spain and Germany, he only applied them to wines under 14% alcohol. No more. As of yesterday, French and German wines 14% and higher face 25% duties.

The pain is clear in France. Bottled table wine shipments from France to the U.S. had recorded 10 consecutive years of volume growth prior to 2020, according to Impact Databank. But French wine imports fell 37% in the first nine months of 2020, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

Will a new president in the White House change things? Tariff opponents are hopeful, but wary. For one thing, bureaucracy moves slowly. “Most people believe President-elect Biden will want to restore relations with global allies, and a key part of that with the European Union is resolving these trade issues,” said Ben Aneff, president of the U.S. Wine Trade Alliance (USWTA) and managing partner at Tribeca Wine Merchants. Wine Spectator has the full story.—Mitch Frank

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