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25.02.2020 Europe

French winegrowers say 100,000 jobs at risk over Trump tariffs

By RFI
George Wilhelm/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images
LISTEN FEB 25, 2020
George Wilhelm/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

French viticulture groups are warning that punitive tariffs on wine exports to the United States imposed by President Donald Trump risk putting 100,000 jobs on the line – some 20 percent of the sector – and called on French officials to protect the industry.

France's viticulture industry directly or indirectly employs 500,000 people, and industry groups warned the tariffs were taking their toll in agriculture, distribution and restauration.

“The whole economy of the French countryside will face difficulty if viticulture suffers: if nothing is done in response to the American taxes, we risk losing at least 100,000 jobs,” said Jean-Marie Barillère, president of industry group CNIV, during a conference at the annual Paris International Agricultural Show.

Last October, the Trump Administration applied 25 percent tariffs on imports of French, Spanish and German wines of less than 14 degrees in response to a dispute over European Union subsidies granted to European aerospace giant Airbus.

Since then, French wine exports to the US have fallen by an average of 30 percent, and the sector fears it could lose 300-400 million euros in annual sales in its main export market if the tariffs remained in place.

“Distributors will buy their wines elsewhere,” Barillère said. “We are losing market share that it will be very difficult to retrieve.”

Industry blames French state, Airbus
Industry groups said French President Emmanuel Macron assured them compensation would be in place by the spring. Macron has previously backed tariff relief for wine producers and said that he raised the issue with the European Commission.

“We cannot wait until May or June,” said Jérôme Despey, a winegrower and secretary general in France's main farmer union, the FNSEA, calling for “immediate and appropriate” measures".

“There are two guilty parties: the French state and Airbus,” said Bernard Farges, a Bordeaux winemaker and president of industry group CNAOC, arguing the punitive taxes were levied “because of illegal subsidies” given to the European aerospace giant.

“It's the countryside and the viticulture industry that are punished,” he said. “These payments to Airbus have to be stopped.”

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