U.S. hits Scotch whisky, Italian cheese, French wine with 25% tariffs
The Trump administration has put 25 percent tariffs on French wine, Italian cheese and single-malt Scotch whisky – but spared Italian wine, pasta and olive oil – in retaliation for European Union subsidies on large aircraft.
The U.S. Trade Representative's Office released a list of hundreds of European products that will get new tariffs, including cookies, salami, butter and yogurt – but in many cases applied to only some EU countries, including German camera parts and British-made blankets.
The list includes UK-made sweaters, pullovers, cashmere items and wool clothing, as well as olives from France, Germany and Spain, EU-produced pork sausage and other pork products other than ham, and German coffee. The new tariffs are to take effect as early as October 18.
The Trade Representative's Office said it would "continually re-evaluate these tariffs based on our discussions with the EU" and expects to enter talks in a bid to resolve the dispute.
Still some Italian foods – Parmesan, Reggiano, Romano and provolone cheese — were hit with tariffs as were Italian fruits, clams and yogurt. Also getting new tariffs are German and British camera parts, industrial microwave ovens, printed books, sweet biscuits and waffles.
The biggest single tariff imposed is a 10 percent levy on EU-made airplanes, a levy that could hurt U.S. airlines that have ordered billions of dollars of Airbus aircraft.
EU products winning reprieves include chocolate, Greek olive oil, helicopters, frozen fish, lobster, sparkling wine, stemware and tiles.
Meanwhile, U.S. whisky producers have been hard hit by the EU's 25 percent tariffs that were imposed in June 2018 in response to U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum.
Specialty food importers had urged the Trump administration not to move forward with the tariffs saying in August "there are few to no domestic products that can replace these imported specialty foods."
The Specialty Food Association said there were 14,000 U.S. specialty food retailers that would impacted by these tariffs as well as over 20,000 other food retailers.
Ralph Hoffman, executive vice president of New Jersey-based Schuman Cheese, one of the largest importers of hard Italian cheeses, said the tariffs could reduce his company's imports by 30 percent, and the impact would come in the middle of the critical holiday season.
"It looks pretty bad. They hit cheese hard," said Hoffman, who is also a vice president with the Cheese Importers Association of America.
Hoffman said Schuman and other companies have been buying extra amounts of cheeses with a longer shelf life, but there was a limit to how much hedging they had been able to do. He said the company brings in over 1,100 containers of cheese each year, serving many big box stores such as Costco and BJ's Wholesale Club.
"This will put a massive dent in that," he said.
Many of the tariffs, especially those on alcohol, were not popular on social media.
Jacob Levy, a professor of political theory at McGill University, wrote on Twitter the tariffs were "an interesting strategy for lowering the trillion-dollar deficit: increase everyone's need to drink to get through each day's news, then tax the heck out of the good alcohol."