End Trump’s Tariffs on European Wine, Food, Top Chefs Urge Biden

  • Shake Shack, French Laundry join coalition seeking relief
  • Bipartisan senators, House members also want levies lifted

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President-elect Joe Biden‘s first day in office should include using executive action to lift U.S. tariffs on European wine, spirits, and food, top chefs and former cooking show stars urge.

The Coalition to Stop Restaurant Tariffs, a newly formed group representing restaurants and suppliers in all 50 states, asked the incoming administration Wednesday for immediate duty relief to help owners of eateries.

Daniel Meyer, founder of Shake Shack Inc., and Thomas Keller, owner of renowned California restaurant The French Laundry, are among the coalition’s leaders.

The plea for action comes as Congress negotiates its next possible Covid relief package during the lame-duck session. The group argues relief from tariffs could give a quick boost to bars and restaurants that were forced to shutter at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic and are still held to rigid state and local restrictions.

Photo: Chip Chipman/Bloomberg News
The wine cellar at French Laundry, Thomas Keller’s three-star Michelin rated restaurant in Yountville, Calif.

Another restaurant industry lobbying effort aimed at Congress earlier this year fell short of its goals, which included tax rebates, changes to business interruption insurance, and the creation of a restaurant stabilization fund.

“While restaurants certainly need a larger relief package from Congress, the Biden administration, dealing with trade policy, is in a great position early on to say, ‘We’re going to get rid of these tariffs on food products,’” said Andrew Fortgang, co-owner and wine director of Le Pigeon and Canard, two restaurants in Portland, Ore. He’s also a member of the coalition.

“It’s not going to be the magic pill that saves restaurants, but it’s going to help,” Fortgang said.

The president-elect hasn’t specified plans for how he will address a range of tariffs put in place over the course of President Donald Trump‘s administration. The Biden transition team didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

‘Further Economic Harm’

Wine and spirits distributors and importers have also pushed the Trump administration to lift its 25% tariff on Scotch and Irish whiskeys, liqueurs, cordials, and wine from the European Union. The duties are tied to a trade dispute over aircraft subsidies.

EU Wine, Whiskey Duties Seen Making U.S. Sellers ‘Punching Bag’

More than 160 House members and 13 senators called on U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to end the tariffs on European foods and beverages.

Restaurants, retailers, grocers, importers, and distributors “have been hit hard by the pandemic and we encourage you to avoid subjecting workers and businesses that depend on these products from further economic harm,” the senators wrote in a letter.

To contact the reporter on this story: Megan U. Boyanton in Washington at mboyanton@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Robin Meszoly at rmeszoly@bgov.com; Sarah Babbage at sbabbage@bgov.com

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