Interview: U.S. tea association "dead set against" tariffs on Chinese tea

Source: Xinhua| 2019-06-25 11:18:44|Editor: Yang Yi
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WASHINGTON, June 24 (Xinhua) -- For Peter Goggi, who has been actively promoting tea and health in the United States over the past few years, the U.S. administration's proposed tariffs on Chinese tea are quite unsettling.

"There are very small terroirs or micro climate areas in China that produce very, very high quality teas and very unique teas that you cannot get anywhere else in the world," Goggi, president of the Tea Association of the U.S.A., Inc.(TeaUSA), told Xinhua in a recent interview.

"If the tariffs go through, ultimately the consumer will pay the price," he said. "It's the consumer that gets hurt."

The seven-day hearing, held by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, enters its fifth day on Friday, when representatives from furniture, chemical, retail and technology industries, among others, gathered to make comments on the proposed tariff hike, with most of them voicing their strong oppositions.

In his testimony at Friday's hearing over the Trump administration's threatened additional 25-percent tariffs on 300 billion U.S. dollars' worth of Chinese products, Goggi said the tariffs would have a "disproportionate economic impact" on small and medium-sized enterprises because most of the U.S. importers, who pay the tariffs, are small businesses.

Noting that the tariffs would harm the U.S. tea industry, Goggi urged the U.S. government to remove black and green teas, instant tea and extracts from the proposed tariff list.

Goggi said he is "dead set against" the proposed tariffs on Chinese tea. "I don't want any barriers in the way of people enjoying and consuming tea because number one, it tastes great, and number two, it is good for them."

The U.S. tea market has witnessed consistent year-on-year growth, Goggi said, with its market volume surging from about 2.5 billion dollars 20 years ago to the current 12.5 billion dollars. According to the latest data from the TeaUSA, about four in five U.S. consumers drink tea, with millennials being the most likely, reaching 87 percent.

When asked at the hearing about what segment of the U.S. market Chinese tea serves, Goggi said "there isn't one section of the tea market that is not touched by Chinese tea," no matter it's regular teas or high-end teas, sold in bricks-and-mortar stores or ordered online.

Goggi said 70 percent of imported green tea comes from China and he has seen a growing interest in Chinese tea, particularly specialty tea, among Americans over the past few years.

For Goggi, Longjing tea and Yunnan black tea are his favorite. "Longjing tea, the leaf itself is very beautiful, I love the way it sits vertically in the glass. When you pour hot water on it, has a beautiful aroma and taste," he said, highlighting its elaborate manufacturing process.

Moreover, Goggi told the hearing that the imposition of tariff on Chinese tea will not impact Chinese producers, exporters or the government overall, as the U.S. consumption of Chinese tea only accounts for less than 1 percent of China's total tea production.

Jason Walker, marketing director of Firsd Tea North America, LLC, a subsidiary of Zhejiang Tea Group, Ltd., said in his testimony that the United States is not a tea producing nation, and thus "there is virtually no commercial tea grown that needs to be protected by tariffs, nor are there any farm-based jobs that would be protected."

"The U.S. tea industry, particularly specialty tea, is reliant on continued access to Chinese tea imports for present and future growth and success," Walker said, "strongly" urging the administration to forego a tax on tea.

Goggi also noted that the free and unencumbered import of pure tea from its origin is a centuries-old tradition. "Tea has been tax free for many, many, many years and it should remain that way," he said.

"I love the people of China and I am always a believer that people can do so much more together than apart," said Goggi, who has visited China a dozen times over the past three decades.

He said it would benefit both nations for the two sides to work together on "common causes" and he is "hopeful" that Washington and Beijing could resolve the ongoing U.S.-initiated trade frictions and make sure that everyone is treated fairly in the relationship.