Senators Collins, Menendez Urge U.S. Trade Ambassador to Resolve Tariff Issue Amid COVID-19

Hiked prices on imported cheese, meat, fruit, olive oil, and wine cause financial strain on families, small businesses, and the restaurant industry in the midst of the pandemic

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) led a bipartisan effort to end the 25 percent tariffs on imported food and beverages from the European Union (EU) imposed by U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer.  Hiked prices on food and beverage products from the EU, including as cheese, meat, fruit, olive oil, and wine, have caused an increased financial strain on families trying to put food on their tables and restaurants trying to keep their doors open during the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 


“Restaurants, retailers, grocers, importers and distributors, many of which are small, locally-owned businesses, have experienced severe economic hardship due to the increased cost of goods,” the Senators wrote.  “We appreciated the Administration’s decision earlier this year to not increase the tariffs; however, the negative economic costs of the remaining 25 percent tariffs continue and the COVID-19 pandemic has only compounded the harm.”


“Demand for specialty goods has declined, leaving importers and distributors with months’ worth of product, much of it perishable, in storage and in transit with no clear end date for the COVID-19 pandemic,” the Senators continued.  “Consumers are wary of increased prices during this uncertain time and the tariffs create an additional burden.  Furthermore, tariffs on these products may inflict additional harm on U.S. exports of agricultural products that sustain these industries.”


In October 2019, the U.S. imposed a 25 percent tariff on $7.5 billion worth of European products following a World Trade Organization ruling that the European Union illegally subsidized Airbus.  According to the Maine International Trade Center, in 2018, Maine imported $769 million from the E.U. and exported nearly $370 million in goods and services, making the bloc Maine’s second-largest export market.


Senator Collins previously wrote to Ambassador Lighthizer in October 2019, and January and May of this year, urging the Administration to alleviate the economic hardship affecting Maine businesses as a result of the current trade dispute between the United States and the European Union.


In addition to Senators Collins and Menendez, the letter was signed by Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).


In addition to consumers and businesses throughout the state, the letter is supported by the U.S. Wine Trade Alliance, the Distilled Spirits Council, Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America, the National Retail Federation, and the Retail Industry Leaders Association.


Click HERE to read the letter.