Democrats join Trump in whining about tariffs on wine

Feinstein, others call on administration to push for removing duties on U.S. wine

Democratic lawmakers want the Trump administration to ensure any new trade agreements with China or Japan remove tariffs on U.S. wine. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Concerns about tariffs on wine are leaving a sour taste both on Capitol Hill and in the White House.

But this wine isn’t skunked, it’s tainted by retaliatory Chinese tariffs, lawmakers say.

Democrats from wine-producing regions penned a letter Tuesday urging the Trump administration to ensure any new trade agreements with China or Japan remove tariffs on U.S. wine.

Tariffs on American wine sold in China rose to 54 percent at the start of the month, a major increase from the 14 percent rate in place in March 2018. 

“U.S. wine will not be able to maintain a long-term Chinese presence in the face of such a wide disparity in trade conditions,” California Sen. Dianne Feinstein and a handful of other Democrats wrote in a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

Those other senators joining Feinstein on the letter included Kamala Harris of California, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, and Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell of Washington state.

They pointed to recent trade deals that China has made with other winemaking nations such as Chile, New Zealand and Australia that make the huge Chinese market even tougher for U.S. wine. California Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson led a House version of the letter.

“As your negotiations with China and Japan progress, we urge you to ensure that any new agreements include the removal of all tariffs on U.S. wine,” the letter states. “The Administration must do all it can to support the international competitiveness of U.S. industries.”

President Donald Trump took aim at French wine earlier this week after returning from his trip to Europe, which included a visit to France to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day.

“France charges us a lot for the wine, and yet we charge them little for French wine,” he told CNBC. “And you know what, it’s not fair. We’ll do something about it.” 

As a member of the European Union, France does not set its own wine tariffs. Any tariffs imposed by the U.S. would apply to the entire EU trading bloc.

Trump, who does not drink alcohol, got into the wine business back in 2011 when he purchased Kluge Estate Winery in Charlottesville, Virginia. He has since passed the business off to his son Eric.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone.