Tensions continue to rise in the US as the threat of substantial tariffs on French fine wine loom ever larger. In the first weeks of the new decade US wine suppliers came together in a combined effort to oppose the proposed import tariffs of up to 100% on most EU wine. The tariffs are the result of an ongoing disagreement with the EU over subsidies paid to Airbus, and several hearings have been organised by the US Trade Representative (USTR) in an effort to obtain public comments from members of the trade. At this time, however, no official verdict has been given.
Business owners and drinkers alike have followed this story with trepidation, after 25% tariffs were introduced on some EU wines last year. It is believed that if these new 100% tariffs were formally announced they would impact the EU only a little, whilst US consumers and suppliers could suffer a great deal. Reduced supply would of course lead to higher prices, and could very well lead to job losses or even see smaller businesses forced to close their doors completely.
Interestingly, and as is always the case in the world of business, disaster for one sector may present opportunity for another. Italian wines managed to avoid the last round of US tariffs on fine wine, though several other exports including Parmesan and olive oils were affected. Italy is the greatest exporter of wine to the US by a significant margin, so bottles of Chianti or Barolo could see a marked increase in price should Italy be successful in dodging the 100% tariffs if they are introduced.
As things stand both the EU and US reportedly want to come to an agreement. However, the EU has firmly stated that it will respond in kind to any aggressive US tariffs. Companies from both sides of the Atlantic are now starting to take action, with both EU and US fine wine companies thoroughly expressing their concerns to their respective governmental bodies. If nothing else, it is encouraging to see that even across these borders the fine wine industry remains steadfast in its support of fellow merchants, and is not going to allow these tariffs to be implemented without a fight.