by Gino Colangelo
Free trade is a fundamental issue for all of us involved in the business of marketing and selling fine wines and foods that are sold internationally. The recent announcement of punitive tariffs on select European Union wines and food products by the US government is bad for business. Thankfully, Italian wines have escaped from the tariffs – at least for the time being.
At Colangelo & Partners, we’ve been advocating through the press against the tariffs on behalf of the Washington, DC-based Cheese Importers Association of America (CIAA) and in coordination with the trade commissions of Italy and Spain as well as trade organizations such as the Specialty Food Association and the North American Olive Oil Association. The US press has been very receptive to the message that tariffs are bad for business, bad for workers and bad for consumers.
While the current trade dispute seems settled for now – with clear ‘winners’ (i.e. Italian wine producers, sparkling wine producers) and ‘losers’ (most Italian cheese producers, French and Spanish wine companies, among others) − one lesson we’ve learned in the US is never to count on consistency or rationality from the current administration. Tariffs on products from China, for example, are in a constant state of flux, imposed then delayed seemingly day to day.
The anti-tariff story is resonating in the current US media environment. We need to keep evolving the story and expanding the circle of businesses and organizations that support the principal of free trade in order to put as much pressure as possible on government officials not to devolve the dispute into a tit-for-tat, all-out trade war. It’s critical that all of us with a stake in the issue continue to advocate against tariffs and for free trade through our government representatives, trade associations and through the court of public opinion (i.e. the press).