food & drink

Trade wars are good, according to Trump

Earlier this week we had the laughable spectacle of American wine traders thanking the Administration for not increasing import tariffs to 100%. This gesture was inspired by the announcement that the duty on EU still wines and those under 14% proof (excluding cava and sherry) and Scotch whisky would stay at ‘only’ 25%. As Trump said when he embarked on his vendetta against all things non-American, “Trade wars are good; they are easy to win,” he tweeted.

The increase on import tariffs for wine will have a devastating effect on the thousands of small drinks distributors scattered around the US. Many of these are family businesses. One lady who runs a small company went on record as saying she has two choices: absorb the increase herself so as not to lose customers, or pass it on and still lose customers. Either way it was almost certainly a prelude to closing down her business.

The Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America Association has projected the loss of 36,000 jobs and US$1.6 billion in wages, costing the US economy more than $5.3 billion. The saddest aspect of the whole matter is that the wine business is paying for the Boeing-Airbus spat that Trump has emphasised as being the main justification for the introduction of the taxes on European imports. Why on earth should wine drinkers, distributors, importers, and producers be made to suffer on account of a totally extraneous issue?

We may not care about the hardships that could befall employees of US businesses, but what about the families of employees of Scottish whisky distilleries? And those of liquor-making families in Germany, Ireland, Italy and Spain, also affected? Indeed, what possible reason could there be for making the wine trade the sacrificial lamb for the alleged infringements of a totally unconnected business?