Chef coalition wades into food and wine tariff dispute

A group of top US chefs have formed a coalition urging the US President-elect Joe Biden to end tariffs on European food, wine and spirits issued as part of a 16-year aviation dispute.

Pecorino was one of the European cheeses caught up in the dispute

The newly-launched Coalition to Stop Restaurant Tariffs is calling on Biden to remove existing US tariffs on EU wine, Scotch whisky and liqueurs as well as food items including olives, butter, cheese and pork products.

President Trump imposed tariffs on US$7.5 billion worth of EU goods in October 2019 as part of a long running feud involving subsidies given to Airbus over US rival Boeing.

In a statement, Kwame Onwuachi, a former contestant on US television series Top Chef, said the tariffs were an “additional burden” that the industry could not afford on top of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. 

He said: “The pandemic is devastating the American restaurant industry. [It] has forced restaurants to turn away patrons and lay off longstanding employees. We can’t afford the additional burden of tariffs on imported products and hope to stay in business.”

According to the National Restaurant Association, one in six US restaurants – over 110,000 – have closed since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. More than 16% of those forced to closed had been operating for over three decades prior to the pandemic.

The chef-run coalition claims the US tariffs have “backfired”, causing four times more economic damage on the US than they have on Europe.

Alice Waters, owner of California’s Chez Panisse and a member of the coalition, added: “Removing these tariffs isn’t about restaurants like Chez Panisse. It’s about the thousands of local restaurants that are on the verge of shutting their doors for good.”

It follows the announcement by the UK that it would suspend its retaliatory tariffs against the US issued as part of the aviation dispute. It is hoped this would lead to the removal of US tariffs on products including Scotch whisky.

However both the US and Brussels responded by saying that the UK had “no authority” to impose tariffs as part of the dispute after leaving the EU, something Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesperson denied in a statement given to the BBC.

Despite stating that the UK still intended to lift tariffs on the US in January, a spokesperson for the UK Department for International Trade told the FT said: “UK industry has been harmed by the US subsidies . . . and we will not hesitate to reimpose tariffs if necessary to protect UK businesses and jobs.”

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