Vermont Congressman Calls For Elimination Of Wine Tariff | WAMC

Vermont Congressman Calls For Elimination Of Wine Tariff

Jan 22, 2020

Vermont Democratic at-large Congressman Peter Welch was at the Beverage Warehouse in Winooski Wednesday to decry a proposed 100 percent tariff and urge the Trump Administration to revoke current tariffs on imported French wines.

President Donald Trump has imposed a 25 percent tariff on French wines and has threatened to increase it to 100 percent because France placed a tax on social media companies like Google and Facebook. Democratic Congressman Peter Welch says the use of tariffs by the administration to try achieve an alternate goal is unfair.  “Whatever the issues are with Google and Facebook and our social media platforms let’s not make the folks here, who are selling wine and spirits, let’s not hold them hostage for what’s going on in this digital dispute. That has to be resolved on its own terms.”  

Welch was surrounded by retailers, distributers and restaurant owners who say there’s already serious repercussions from the current 25 percent tariff.  Dedalus Wine owner Jason Zuliani says the impact of the tariff ripples beyond his Burlington and Middlebury stores.  “We spend almost all of our money locally. That local spend is really tremendous. It’s truck drivers and warehouse workers. It’s sales people. It’s your neighbors. It’s the people that you know write ads for papers. It’s such a tremendous web and I think it’s important to understand that. These are punitive measures but they’re not going to have their intended consequence. They’re going to impact your friends and your neighbors and your community in a way that could be irreparable.”

It’s not just wine merchants and distributors who are worried about the threat of a 100 percent tariff.  Leslie McCrorey Wells co-owns three Italian eateries in the Burlington area.  She sees the tariffs affecting the wine trade across Europe.  “The effect of a 100 percent tariff would devastate the entire wine import chain from the amazing family-owned Italian farms to the U.S. importers who have spent years, even decades, nurturing business relationships, trust, long-standing friendships in Europe. Additionally distributors right here in the U.S., beverage outlets, stores, markets, restaurants, wine bars, consumers will be and are in the process of being adversely impacted. The time, effort and expense that has gone into building businesses, relationships and distribution streams will not easily be rebuilt.”

A tweet from French President Emmanuel Macron at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland  states “We will work together on a good agreement to avoid tariff escalation” is alleviating some fears that the wine tariff will rise.   Congressman Welch says regardless, the president has abused tariff rules.  “The tariff authority belongs to Congress and Congress has delegated some authority in national emergencies for the pres, a president to use the tariff authority.  But do we really have a national security emergency with Canada? Do we really have a national security emergency with France? You know obviously we don’t.  Congress should reassert its authority over tariffs and not allow it, in my view, to be abused as a negotiating tactic on unrelated matters.”

Welch reports that a new bipartisan Congressional Wine Caucus has written a letter to the U.S. Trade Representative demanding the administration remove the retaliatory tariffs.