You might have noticed the cheese world buzzing about the Trump administration’s proposed tariffs on European Union (EU) goods. These would impact American access to imported wine, olive oil, and (gasp!) some of our favorite cheeses. Here are four things you need to know.
1. What are the tariffs even about?
In response to the EU subsidizing Airbus (rival to American-owned Boeing), the Trump administration proposed retaliatory tariffs on select European goods. While the original dispute lies within the aerospace industry, the tariffs would be leveled against foodstuff such as wine, olive oil, and cheese.
“[The dispute] should be resolved in that sector,” says Philip Marfuggi, president and CEO of the Ambriola Company, one of the largest U.S. importers of Italian cheeses. “Cheese, wine, pasta, and a multitude of other products [subject to tariffs] have nothing to do with the airline manufacturing industry.”
2. How will American consumers and businesses be affected?
There are multiple ways these tariffs would force change. Imported cheese would double in price. Since cheese retailers (especially small to medium businesses) already operate on razor thin margins thanks to the short shelf life of their wares, they wouldn’t be able to stock cheese they might not be able to sell. Choices would be much more limited, and boast a much higher price tag.
In addition, higher cheese prices would lead to a loss of revenue, which would mean a fall in employment. From cheese transporters to importers to mongers and retailers, there simply wouldn’t be enough business to pay wages. “We estimate that, at minimum, the tariffs would put 20,000 jobs related to importing cheese at risk,” says Marfuggi.
3. Which cheeses would be affected?
About 90 percent of all imported cheeses from the EU would be affected. All European countries would be subject to the tariffs, including Italy, Spain, France, and the Netherlands. Consumers can expect to see a dramatic hike in cost for their favorite cheeses, should the tariffs go into effect. Projected prices see soft-ripened French cheeses such as brie costing $25 per pound, while favorites such as Parmigiano Reggiano costing anywhere from $30-$45 per pound.
4. So what now?
Now we wait. “We hope that somebody is advising the White House that this action will hurt the US economy and put a number of jobs and companies at risk,” says Marfuggi. If the tariffs are imposed, small businesses will face a major hurdle. So, while we await the final decision, use the tariffs as an excuse to stop in your local cheese shop for a midweek shopping extravaganza.