Biden Administration Won't Be Removing Trump's Wine Tariffs (For Now)

Biden's nominee for United States Trade Representative is still awaiting confirmation, which may be delaying the process.

The Trump administration may have ended, but the tariffs it imposed on wine and other alcoholic beverages will remain—at least for the time being. On Friday, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR)—which is currently led by the Biden-appointed acting-representative Maria Pagan—formally announced that it would not be revising these tariffs which are tied to a lasting dispute between Boeing and Airbus.

However, not all is lost for wine importers (and wine-loving consumers!) who are still reeling from 25 percent tariffs imposed on a laundry list of alcoholic beverages from France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Just two days earlier, USTR spokesman Adam Hodge stated, "We know there is great interest in resolving the Boeing-Airbus dispute on both sides of the Atlantic and USTR looks forward to working with our European allies to find an outcome that levels the playing field once Ambassador Tai is confirmed."

trump wine tariffs
Wine bottles line the walls at Street Car Wine & Beer in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston on Jan. 4, 2020. Boston Globe / Contributor/Getty Images

Biden announced he would nominate Katherine Tai to lead the trade office back in December, but is still waiting on her confirmation hearing, which CNBC reports likely won't take place until next week at the earliest. As such, even the National Association of Beverage Importers—the trade group representing U.S. importers of alcohol beverages—admitted that things are in a "holding pattern," with NABI President Robert M. Tobiassen adding, "Let's hope Ms. Tai's confirmation is soon and smooth so USTR can start to rebuild our European trading relationships."

That said, some in the industry had held out hope that Biden might take action to begin rolling back these tariffs sooner—in part because the Trump administration had continued to add new tariffs even after his election defeat, with wines over 14 percent ABV from France and Germany joining the group as recently as January 12. "[It's a] missed opportunity to present a conciliatory signal," Tobiassen stated, adding that the USTR had "the options of repealing the January additional tariffed products or agreeing with the EU for a mutual six-month suspension of the Airbus and Boeing tariffs."

And yet, a resolution may be around the corner. Last week, an unnamed source told CNBC that French President Emmanuel Macron had already spoken with Biden about resolving the nearly two-decade-old dispute stemming from subsidies paid domestically to Boeing on the American side and Airbus on the European one. "There's really nothing left but to reach a deal," Marjorie Chorlins, senior vice president of European affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, told the business site. "The last administration made a good faith effort to resolve these issues but didn't close the deal."

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