News Analysis: Italy wine, cheese, olive oil makers spooked over threat of U.S. tariffs

Source: Xinhua| 2019-04-13 10:36:19|Editor: Xiaoxia
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ROME, April 13 (Xinhua) -- Italian producers of wine, cheese and olive oil are worried about possible tariffs on products entering markets in the United States. But analysts said they can do little to avoid them unless the European Union takes action to avert a trade war.

U.S. President Donald Trump threatened earlier this week to levy as much as 11 billion U.S. dollars in tariffs on European goods. The move was in protest of what the United States sees as unfair government aid to European aerospace giant Airbus, which is said to give the company an unfair advantage over the United States-based rival Boeing.

The proposed new levies cover many of the main products of Italy's 55-billion-dollar exports sold in U.S. markets, including wine, certain kinds of Italian-made cheese, and olive oil. In total, more than a quarter of Italy's exports to the United States could face higher tariffs.

"The problem for most farmers who would be affected by these measures is that they have little say in how it will play out," Lorenzo Bazzana, an economist with Coldiretti, Italy's main agricultural trade union, told Xinhua. "The diplomats have to resolve these kinds of problems. All a farmer can do is to put his head down, keep working, and try to survive."

Bazzana said that the tariffs, if applied, would impact producers across Europe, meaning they would not give rival producers elsewhere in Europe an advantage over Italian producers.

According to Silvana Ballotta, head of advisory firm Business Strategies, Italian producers would have time to react given that tariffs are generally announced weeks or months before they are implemented.

"One thing a wine producer, for example, could do in the time between the announcement of the tariffs and their application is to send more bottles to the U.S. to make sure they are taxed at the lower rate," Ballotta said.

She also cautioned against jumping to conclusions too soon. "Before getting too worried I would wait until we see some kind of formal announcement," she said.

Aside from the above-mentioned Italian products, the 14-page list of other European exports that could face U.S. tariffs include private-use helicopters, automobiles, clothing, fish products, citrus fruits, and fruit preserves.

The tariffs threats from the United States come at a precarious time for many European countries, which are struggling amid slow economic growth and the complications of Britain's withdrawal from the 28-nation European Union, just weeks before voters will go to the polls to select new members of the European Parliament.

Political analysts have said that bad economic news is likely to bolster the chances of nationalist or anti-establishment political parties already expected to finish strongly.