US Senators Call on Trade Representative to Lift Tariff on Foods Imported From EU

August 11, 2020 Updated: August 11, 2020

A bipartisan group of senators have asked the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) to remove 25 percent tariffs imposed in October 2019 on European Union (EU) food and wine.

Sens. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine) along with 10 other senators called for an end to tariffs on imported food and beverages from the European Union (EU).

The senators sent a letter to the U.S. Trade Ambassador, Robert E. Lighthizer on Aug. 7, requesting his help to lift tariffs on foods imported from the EU.

“We write today to request the removal of the Section 301 tariffs that were placed on food and beverage specialty products from the European Union in October 2019 in relation to the World Trade Organization Large Civil Aircraft dispute,” the senators wrote.

The senators said that small business in their districts are being hit hard by the pandemic and removing the existing tariffs from imported products like cheese, wine, meat, fruit, olive oil, etc. from the EU will alleviate the “increased financial strain on families trying to put food on their tables and restaurants trying to keep their doors open during the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.”

“The biggest problem with this is, most of the damage that’s being done from these tariffs is done to a series of small businesses here in the United States,” Ben Aneff, president of the U.S. Wine Trade Alliance, told WWLP.

Aneff added that restaurant owners are bearing the brunt of the imposed tariffs.

“Restaurants, retailers, grocers, importers, and distributors, many of which are small, locally-owned businesses, have experienced severe economic hardship due to the increased cost of goods,” wrote the senators.

“We appreciated the Administration’s decision earlier this year to not increase the tariffs; however, the negative economic costs of the remaining 25 percent tariffs continue and the COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the harm,” the senators added.

There were 26,160 total restaurant closures on Yelp as of July 10 and 15,770 of those who have made the decision permanent, according to Yelp.

According to Yelp’s Economic Impact Report, “The restaurant industry now reflects the highest total business closures, recently surpassing retail,” the report stated.

The senators urged Lighthizer to lift the tariffs so businesses impacted by the pandemic might have a chance to survive the current economic downturn.

“These industries have been hit hard by the pandemic and we encourage you to avoid subjecting workers and businesses that depend on these products from further economic harm and urge the EU to simultaneously remove its tariffs, and agree not to impose more tariffs, on U.S. food and drink products,” the senators said.