Despair in Burgundy and beyond, as US tariffs hit EU goods

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Wine bottles sit in a boutique shop in Le Cannet-des-Maures, in the Provence region, Thursday Oct. 10, 2019. European producers of premium specialty agricultural products like French wine, are facing a U.S. tariff hike on Friday, with dollars 7.5 billion duties on a range of European goods approved by the World Trade Organization for illegal EU subsidies to aviation giant Airbus.(AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

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BEINE, France (AP) — French vintners are begging for government aid. Italian farmers are scrambling for new export markets. And American shoppers are about to face supermarket sticker shock on European products.

That’s because some $7.5 billion in U.S. tariffs on European food, wine and other goods took effect Friday, in response to illegal EU subsidies to planemaker Airbus.

The U.S. is also accused of illegal subsidies — to Boeing — and EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom threatened Friday to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. products. But she laid out her hope that negotiations would prevent a trade war escalation that would have global fallout.

The sun illuminating Burgundy’s autumn foliage as the tariffs kicked in wasn’t enough to lift glum spirits among vintners like Louis Moreau, a sixth-generation wine producer who described the U.S. as a “key market” over the past two decades.

“Where is the logic? It’s not fair,” Moreau, who lived in the United States for 10 years, told The Associated Press. He said he and other Chablis producers feel they’re being held hostage to an unrelated political dispute.

“We have good relations with our U.S. consumers,” he said.

“This whole thing — it’s a mess in a way — is really putting some stress, some tension on this relationship.”

The U.S. is the No. 1 market for French wine exports, and Moreau estimates the tariffs could cost him 80,000 euros ($90,000) in revenue over the next six months, a 20% loss of his U.S. business.

French wine exporters group FEVS asked for government help to compensate for an expected drop in sales as American consumers shun French varieties for cheaper wines from the U.S. or elsewhere.

At Rome’s Testaccio market, which is packed with wheels of Parmesan and strung with cured meats, food shop owner Enzo Paoloantoni urged Italian politicians to fight harder to protect Italy’s economic interests.

Paoloantoni had only sarcastic words for the American president: “I believe that Trump was very nice to help Italians.”

Italy’s main farm lobby has forecast a 20% drop in sales of agricultural products that represent half a billion euros in export value, and called on the government to help promote Italian goods in other export markets instead.

German Riesling white wine is among the many products that’s about to get more expensive for American shoppers. Germany’s government isn’t happy, but is staying prudent for now.

“We regret that it’s come to the imposition of tariffs by the U.S., because the U.S. is of course harming itself, too, in the end,” Economy Ministry spokeswoman Beate Baron told reporters in Berlin. “Higher tariffs will weigh on the U.S. economy and U.S. consumers.”

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Colleen Barry in Milan, Paolo Santalucia in Rome, Frank Jordans in Berlin and Raf Casert in Brussels contributed.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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