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US floats prospect of 100% tariffs on all EU wines

US trade officials have asked for feedback on possible higher import tariffs of ‘up to 100%’ on all EU wines - among other products - as they look to intensify the pressure on Brussels in a dispute over aerospace subsidies.

Champagne and Italian wines from Barolo to Chianti Classico may no longer avoid the fallout from the aerospace dispute, under fresh US proposals to widen the number of European products targeted by import tariff hikes.

Descriptions covering most EU wines were included in a provisional list published by the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) in the Federal Register on 12 December.

Officials have asked for comments by 13 January 2020 on which products should be targeted and by how much, stating that tariffs could be as much as 100%.

There was no certainty that extra tariffs would be implemented, and a 100% levy would mark a worst-case scenario, but the news will heighten anxiety in the wine trade on both sides of the Atlantic.

There has been concern that prices will rise and some wines may become more difficult to find in the US, if the situation is not resolved quickly.

New import tariffs of 25% have already been imposed on French, Spanish, German and UK still wines at 14% abv or below as part of a $7.5bn compensation package awarded to the US by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) – after it found US firm Boeing had been disadvantaged by illegal subsidies paid to European rival Airbus.

USTR said earlier this month that it was considering expanding and increasing the tariffs after winning a further case against the EU subsidy regime at the WTO.

The recent Federal Register notice also asked for submissions on whether the existing tariffs, imposed 18 October, should continue at their current level.

The European Commission has had a parallel case pending at the WTO over claims of illegal US subsidies paid to Boeing.

It has repeatedly said it would retaliate against US tariffs, but both sides have also called for a negotiated settlement.

Tariffs related to the aerospace dispute are separate from a recent USTR proposal to target Champagne and many French cheeses in retaliation for France’s new digital services tax – which hits US-based tech giants like Google and Apple.


See also: French wines and Scotch whisky targeted by US as trade war looms


 

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