SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) -- Three U.S. senators, including both representing California, sent a letter to the White House Tuesday asking trade officials to push China to lift its tariffs on American wine.
Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, both from California, joined Sen. Jeff Merkeley of Oregon in pushing U.S. Trade Representative Katharine Tai and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to lobby China to stop its 54% tariff on American wine.
The senators noted that China's tariff, first imposed in 2019, hit U.S. vintners hard, causing a 34% decrease in wine exports.
"Vintners that were shipping pallets worth of wine are now only shipping cases, or none at all, as Chinese consumers turn to wine from other countries," the letter said.
China imposed the tariffs during a vicious trade war with the U.S. during the Donald Trump administration. Then, Trump and other U.S. officials accused China of stealing American technology and forcing companies to hand over trade secrets before imposing their own tariffs on $360 billion-worth of Chinese imports.
When China retaliated, it targeted U.S. wines, initially increasing its tariffs from 48% to 93% and effectively cutting off American vintners from the world's fastest growing wine market. If the countries hadn't come to an agreement by Dec. 15 to lower the tariff to 54%, it could've gone to over 100%.
America isn't alone in its wine dispute with China: last year, China also imposed tariffs on Australian wines up to 200%. Australia worries the tariffs could sink its $1-billion industry.
In their letter to the Biden administration, the senators also asked for trade officials to lift 25% tariffs on wines imported from the EU. The tariffs were put on a temporary hold back in March when the two bodies started negotiations over the Boeing Airbus dispute, but the senators want the tariffs removed permanently to dissuade the EU from imposing similar charges on U.S. wines.
"Wineries in our states are already under siege by the pandemic, wildfires, and now drought. Many will not survive if they are also asked to indefinitely sustain a damaging trade war," the senators wrote.
Read the letter in its entirety at Sen. Feinstein's website.
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