Picture: 123RF
Picture: 123RF

Paris — French winemakers hit by US tariffs imposed in a transatlantic trade war over aircraft subsidies on Tuesday demanded help from their government and European planemaker Airbus.

French wine exports to the US have plunged since President Donald Trump in October imposed 25% tariffs on a range of European delicacies in retaliation against EU subsidies of Airbus, archrival of America’s Boeing.

The French finance ministry announced last week that wine exports to the US — the second-biggest export market for French wines after Germany — had fallen 44% in value from October to November.

On Tuesday, the vice-president of France’s Federation of Wine and Spirits Exporters, Louis-Fabrice Latour, said exporters were seeking €300m in compensation.

“We’re demanding the creation of a €300m compensation fund ... to compensate those who have suffered,” Latour, who is also head of the Louis Latour estate in Burgundy, said at the Wine Paris-Vinexpo trade fair.

A delegation of winemakers will meet Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury on Friday to discuss their losses in a battle “not of our making”, said producers at the fair. They did not say whether they wanted Airbus to provide compensation or merely to support their demands.

The French government has said it wants the EU to pick up the tab for any compensation.

Jerome Despey, head of the wine council at the FranceAgriMer farming agency, said the €300m in compensation sought was made up of €250m in tariffs imposed as well as €50m in lost revenue. He called for “dialogue” with Airbus.

“We are the victims of a conflict that is completely out of our hands,” said Miren de Lorgeril, president of the Languedoc winegrowers board.

‘Hostile act’

The tariffs imposed by the US targeted $7.5bn worth of goods, including Spanish wines and olive oil, Irish and Scottish whiskies, German industrial tools, British cashmere and a wide range of European cheeses.

Civilian aircraft from Britain, France, Germany and Spain — the countries with shares in Airbus — were also targeted.

The tariffs, which France labelled a “hostile act” were imposed after the World Trade Organisation faulted the EU for failing to remove illegal subsidies for Airbus, a long-standing gripe of Boeing.

Trump has threatened to hike wine tariffs even further unless there is a deal on a digital tax which European nations want to impose on American giants such as 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

AFP