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French wine exports halve after US slaps on tariffs

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Bottles of wine are pictured in the Vinescence cellar in Saint Jean d'Ardieres, in the Beaujolais region, eastern France, in November 2019.
Bottles of wine are pictured in the Vinescence cellar in Saint Jean d'Ardieres, in the Beaujolais region, eastern France, in November 2019.   -  
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AP Photo/Laurent Cipriani
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US imports of French wine have plummeted since President Donald Trump imposed 25% tariffs on a range of European delicacies in a battle over subsidies to planemaker Airbus, officials said on Friday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said exports dropped 44% by value in November from the previous month, after the 25% import penalty came into effect on October 18.

He called it a "shock" for growers, adding that France has asked the European Union to provide compensation for their losses. "We hope to have their response in the coming weeks or months," he said.

Lemoyne, who was presenting France's trade figures for 2019, did not provide overall figures for wine exports.

But US Census Bureau data released last month showed that American imports of French wines plunged to just $57.1 million (€52 million) in November from $130 million (€118.5 million) the month before, when the tariffs began to bite.

Imports fell again in December, to $55.7 million (€50.8 million), according to the Census data compiled by the American Association of Wine Economists.

The tariffs have been especially painful to producers at the lower ends of the market, where a 25% price hike can turn an affordable bottle into a once-in-a-while luxury.

The National Confederation of Producers of Wine with Protected Designation of Origin (CNAOC) called on the government last month to immediately unlock €300 million in aid to mitigate the impact of the tariffs.

It said that the market, worth €1 billion to the French wine industry in 2018, was "irreplaceable for our sector".

Along with French wines, the tariffs target $7.5 billion worth of Spanish olive oil, Irish and Scottish whiskies, German industrial tools, British cashmere and a wide range of European cheeses.

They were imposed after the World Trade Organization faulted the EU for failing to remove illegal subsidies for the pan-European aerospace group Airbus, whose main rival is the US giant Boeing.

Trump has threatened to hike wine tariffs even further unless their is a deal on taxing digital companies, which European nations want to impose on American giants like Amazon and Facebook.

Last month, France suspended its own digital tax after agreeing on further talks with the US to establish a global framework among members of the OECD group of free-market democracies.

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