Collins-led bipartisan effort seeks to lift ‘harmful’ EU tariffs on food, wine & spirits

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) last week led a bipartisan group of six other senators in calling on President Joe Biden to remove the Section 301 tariffs levied in 2019 on food, wine and spirits imported from the European Union (EU). 

Specifically, the United States in October 2019 imposed a 25 percent tariff on $7.5 billion worth of European products following a World Trade Organization ruling that the EU illegally subsidized Airbus SE, a European multinational aerospace corporation that designs, manufactures and sells civil and military aerospace products worldwide.

Sen. Collins in 2019 and 2020 urged the previous administration to alleviate the economic hardship affecting Maine businesses as a result of the trade dispute. Now, Sen. Collins and her colleagues, including U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), have taken up the request again in a Feb. 18 letter sent to President Biden in which they called the EU 301 tariffs “extremely harmful for restaurants, retailers, grocers, importers and distributors.” 

Because many of them are small, locally owned businesses, the tariffs magnify “the already catastrophic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” the senators wrote.

For instance, the tariffs have driven up the cost of higher quality products, making them more difficult to sell, and subsequently making it much harder for these businesses to entice new customers, according to their letter.

Additionally, because staffing levels in restaurants and small businesses are sensitive to changes in revenue, Sen. Collins and her colleagues wrote that the tariffs have forced businesses to furlough staff and reduce hours even beyond the ongoing pandemic. “Removing these products from the EU 301 product list will free up cash and allow staff to be rehired,” they wrote. 

The senators also noted that while vaccine distribution has given the industry a reason to be optimistic, more difficult months lie ahead. “Tariffs relief now, an action which requires no legislation, would invest in that optimism,” wrote Sen. Collins and the lawmakers.