Time to start rationing how much Parmesan you put on your spaghetti.

By Mike Pomranz
August 07, 2019
Media for Medical/Getty Images

Imagine if half the cheeses sold in America suddenly became significantly more expensive, as much as doubling in price. It could certainly raise the cost of your next dinner party – and the reasons behind the price increase could make for an uncomfortable topic of conversation at your dinner party as well. It’s a reality that could hit in the near future.

The Trump administration is currently weighing the possibility of imposing a laundry list of new tariffs, some as high as 100 percent, on products imported from the European Union – and if the proposal were to be implemented, that could include about 90 percent of all European cheeses sold in the U.S., according to Ron Tanner of the Specialty Food Association. Tanner, who spoke with the site Modern Farmer, said that European cheese probably makes up slightly more than half of all cheese sales in America, resulting in about 2 billion dollars in annual sales. “It looks likely that these tariffs will happen,” Tanner was quoted as saying. “We’re most concerned about the retailers.”

Independent American retailers could be hit the hardest. Cheeses have a limited shelf-life and are already typically sold on thin margins. More cost conscious consumers could choose to buy their European cheeses from larger retailers like Whole Foods which – thanks to the deep pockets of Amazon – don’t have to worry so much about selling a bit less cheese.

But equally frustrating is that cheese has inherently nothing to do with this trade dispute to begin with. As the Office of United States Trade Representative explicitly says in its most recent notice of public hearing, the potential new tariffs are “in connection with the enforcement of U.S. rights in the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute against the European Union (EU) and certain EU member States addressed to EU subsidies on large civil aircraft.” More specifically, these tariffs would be in response to an ongoing dispute between America-based Boeing and EU-based Airbus. “If you’re going to fight an aerospace trade war, put it on aerospace products. Don’t put it on small businesses,” Tanner added.

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