Spotlight: U.S. businesses vexed by possible tariff hikes against EU

Source: Xinhua| 2019-05-17 15:39:11|Editor: xuxin
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WASHINGTON, May 16 (Xinhua) -- U.S. companies and interest groups representing a wide range of industries have been lining up to air their grievances over the potential tariffs Washington is threatening on imports from the European Union (EU).

"It is American consumers and our heartland that has borne the brunt of America's global trade war," said Hun Quach, vice president of international trade at the Retail Industry Leaders Association.

Quach is one of the more than 40 witnesses who testified at a two-day public hearing held by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) on Wednesday and Thursday.

The hearing, according to the USTR, aims to solicit public comments on proposed action against "harmful subsidies on large civil aircraft" by the EU or EU members.

On April 8, the USTR said in a statement that it had begun a process "to identify products of the EU to which additional duties may be applied until the EU removes those subsidies."

A list published later includes a number of products in the civil aviation sector, such as Airbus aircraft, as well as a variety of seafood, dairy products, processed fruits, wine and garments.

In response, the European Commission has threatened to put additional tariffs on 20 billion dollars' worth of U.S. goods as countermeasures against what Brussels deems as American subsidies to Boeing.

Testifying before a committee comprising officials from multiple government departments, Quach said her association believes tariffs on American family staples, such as olive oil, salmon, biscuits and jams, are not the solution to solving the dispute with the EU.

"As we've seen over the past year, placing tariffs on imported goods ... has led to increased prices and business uncertainty," she said.

North American Olive Oil Association Executive Director Joseph Profaci said Americans "have no realistic alternative supply in place for European olive oil, which typically accounts for close to 70 percent of the world's annual production."

Noting that olive oil "is one of the healthiest foods we eat," Profaci said the potential tariffs will force Americans to either "pay increased prices for olive oils or switch to less healthy -- or even unhealthy -- but less expensive cooking fats."

In his testimony, Ed Brzytwa, director of international trade at the American Chemistry Council (ACC), said the ACC's initial analysis "indicates that the chemical industry is again in the crosshairs of another set of possible tariff actions."

"If the tariff rates go up to the maximum level allowed, which is 100 percent, this could effectively block U.S. chemical manufacturers from accessing the EU market for the products on the EU list," Brzytwa said.

"U.S. chemical manufacturers seeking to maintain access to the EU market may decide to move production and jobs out of the U.S. into the EU, the Middle East, or Asia," he added.

Robert Land, associate general counsel of JetBlue Airways Corp., said that slapping tariffs on EU products will raise costs for the airliner, and that the extra expenses will ultimately be transferred back to American consumers.

In the name of protecting domestic industries, the White House has placed steep tariffs on billions of U.S. dollars' worth of products from its major partners, including the EU, Canada, China and Japan, raising trade tensions around the world and shaking the foundation of the global trading system.

The potential flare-up of U.S.-EU trade tensions is poised to add fuel to the decade-long fight in the World Trade Organization between Brussels and Washington over subsidies to Airbus and Boeing, the world's two leading large aircraft makers.

"We did not expect to be testifying today," Nate Herman, senior vice president for supply chain at the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), said at the hearing.

The industry the AAFA represents "has nothing to do with" the U.S.-EU aviation dispute but was "dragged into this issue," he said. "It makes no sense, but here we are."

Speaking to Xinhua after the testimony, Herman said AAFA member companies have already been seriously affected by U.S. tariff measures against China, and are particularly concerned about Washington's threat to extend additional duties to virtually all Chinese imports, including clothing, shoes, and other textiles.

"We're trying to prepare (for the new tariffs), but as you know, it's not easy to move supply chains that have been built up, in many cases, over 15 to 20 years in China," he said.

At the hearing, Herman stressed that "imposing new tariffs on imports is the same as imposing new taxes on American businesses and American consumers."

The apparel and footwear industry and the 4 million American workers it directly employs "can't afford yet another new tax on our businesses and our consumers," he said.