Business owners say 100 percent tariffs on European wines, goods would be 'catastrophic'

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As President Trump threatens tariffs of up to 100 percent on wines and other goods imported from the European Union, analysts and small business owners say such measures could be devastating.

At his natural wine shop Diversey Wines, owner Bradford Taylor says 85 percent of his inventory comes from the E.U. So tariffs of up to 100 percent would force them to do one of two things: raise their prices, or drop their standards.

“We’d have to raise our prices which fundamentally changes the nature of the business and turn us in to purveyors of luxury products for the very rich,” Taylor said.  “Or we’d have to change the wines we carry, we’d have to start carrying industrial, mass produced wines, which I’m not interested in doing either of those.”

And it’s not just wine. A lot of popular products from Europe could be impacted. President Trump proposed imposing the tariffs on goods including Scotch whiskey, French handbags, olive oil, cheeses and wine.

The threatened tariffs are in retaliation for a dispute over illegal European subsides to aircraft manufacturer Airbus, at the expense of Boeing in America, and a French tax on digital services aimed at big tech companies like Google and Facebook.

Cream Wine Company Founder Andy Pates says he imports and distributes about 2,000 wines from around the world. European wines make up 45 percent of his business .

“These political tariffs that are organized more towards big tech are having an impact on a lot of families, a lot of small businesses, that don’t have anything to do with that and it’s a shame,” Pates said.

Pates said he and others are still trying to recover from 25 percent tariffs on European wine that took effect last year.

“It’s going to be catastrophic, some of these tariffs going up to 100 percent,” Pates said.

Pates believes he and other big distributors might have to make job cuts and rethink the wines he buys, but will be able to survive. But he doesn’t think small businesses like Diversey Wines could adapt.

Grace Strachman who considers herself a casual, social drinker says paying $40 for a bottle that she used to pay $20 for would really force her to cut back.

“It will definitely put a damper on the amount of wine I can enjoy and gift people and things like that,” Strachman said.

Public hearings on the proposed tariffs were held last week, and Monday is the last day the Office of the Trade Representative will take public comment. No word on when a decision will be made.

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