My Letter on Wine Tariffs to Robert Lighthizer, USTR

Feel Free to Use It As Inspiration In Your Own Letter

3 min read

The Honorable Robert Lighthizer
Executive Office of the President
600 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20006


RE: Opposition to Tariffs on Imported Wines From the European Union


Dear Amb. Lighthizer:

I am writing as a U.S. consumer of imported and domestic wines. I am also a published writer on the subject matter, and I teach wine-appreciation classes in Denver, Colorado.

First of all, I commend you and your team for tackling the complicated situation with Airbus. But, I am deeply concerned with the tremendous damage being caused by tariffs on wines from the European Union (“EU”) — not to Europeans, but to American businesses and American employees. Unlike most other products, when I buy a bottle of wine at a retail store, I am buying from a U.S.-owned retailer, who is in turn buying from a U.S.-owned distributor, who again, is buying from a U.S.-owned importer. This cumbersome but legally required system means that tariffs on wine do significantly more damage to U.S. businesses than to those in the EU.

In this age of COVID-19 where most independent retailers and especially restaurants are either hanging on by a thread or closed for good, these tariffs are an additional self-inflicted wound to the economy. Many restaurants operate on thin margins, and alcohol sales are often the difference between being in the red or being in the black. By tariffing American importers of European wine, this action:

  1. Makes it impossible for many importers to shoulder the costs of importing,
  2. Cripples American distributors by reducing their capacity and limiting employment opportunities (i.e. salespeople, truck drivers, logistics, warehouse staff, etc.) and
  3. Makes it harder for already fragile restaurants to provide reasonably priced alcohol sales to their customers.

I have heard anecdotally from employees in all three sectors whose businesses are suffering as a result of these tariffs. These are good people — hard-working Americans who have had a lot thrown at them in 2020.

Finally, the notion that American wineries can pick up the slack — or that Americans can now just buy American wine — ignores the fact that America does not produce anywhere near enough wine to meet demand for American wine consumers. And ramping up American wine production would take decades given the cost of vineyard land and the time it takes for vines to mature to a point of being productive. American wineries also have to use distributors to bring their wines to market, and since these tariffs are reducing distributor capacity, they are even hurting American wineries.

This is a lose-lose situation for American businesses.

Least of my concerns is me, the consumer. (Although I have to say that few things could be more American than demanding as much choice as possible in the marketplace).

I strongly agree with your position to use every tool at your disposal to stop the EU subsidies of Airbus. But at this time, these tariffs on wine are not only ineffective as leverage … they’re doing very real damage at home. I ask that you remove these barriers and apply them to a different avenue that will be more effective at turning up the heat on the EU to resolve this matter.



Kevin Day
Opening a Bottle


Feel free to use this letter as inspiration for your own letter or comment to the USTR on the impending action on U.S. tariffs on E.U. wine. The U.S. Wine Trade Alliance website is also a good source for more info and facts to bolster your letter, and an easy avenue for submitting it. They have pre-written letters which you can send as well (I sourced a few parts of this from there).

Personalize it, be respectful, and make it impossible for him to disagree with you. Thanks.


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