08.10.20

As Families, Mom & Pop Restaurants Struggle During Pandemic, Gardner, Menendez, Collins Make Bipartisan Call to End Tariffs on Imported Food Products

Hiked prices on cheese, wine, meat, fruit, olive oil cause financial strain on families, restaurant industry

Washington, D.C.  – U.S. Senators Cory Gardner (R-CO), Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Susan Collins (R-ME) today made a bipartisan call to end tariffs on imported food and beverages from the European Union (EU) imposed by the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Hiked prices on cheese, wine, meat, fruit, olive oil, and other food and beverages from the EU have caused 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.

“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,” the senators wrote to USTR Ambassador Robert Lighthizer. “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 25 percent tariffs imposed in October 2019 are related to a nearly 15-year-long dispute between the U.S. and the EU over subsidies for airplane manufacturers.

“Demand for specialty goods has declined, leaving importers and distributors with months’ worth of product, much of it perishable, in storage and in transit with no clear end date for the COVID-19 pandemic,” the letter continued. “Consumers are wary of increased prices during this uncertain time and the tariffs create an additional burden.”

Also signing the letter were U.S. Senators Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Cory Booker (D-NJ), John Barrasso (R-WY), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Martha McSally (R-AZ), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), and Pat Toomey (R-PA).

A copy of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear Mr. Ambassador:

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.

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. 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. Demand for specialty goods has declined, leaving importers and distributors with months’ worth of product, much of it perishable, in storage and in transit with no clear end date for the COVID-19 pandemic. Consumers are wary of increased prices during this uncertain time and the tariffs create an additional burden. Furthermore, tariffs on these products may inflict additional harm on U.S. exports of agricultural products that sustain these industries.

We respect the need for a response to the unfair subsidies provided by the European Union (EU) to Airbus, and appreciate your efforts in the ongoing dispute in a manner that protects American workers and businesses. Though we understand the intricacies of the ongoing trade negotiations with the European Union, the stress that has been placed on businesses in our states is significant. 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.

Thank you for your continued attention to this urgent matter. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact our offices.

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Cory Gardner is a member of the U.S. Senate serving Colorado. He sits on the Energy & Natural Resources Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, the Commerce, Science, & Transportation Committee, and is the Chairman of the Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy.