Trump calls French wine tariffs unfair, vows to ‘do something' about it

President Trump renewed his promise to “do something” about French wine tariffs during a phone interview with CNBC on Monday, calling the tariff on American wine imposed by the French government “unfair.”

“You know, France charges us a lot for the wine and yet we charge them little for French wine,” Trump said. “So the wineries come to me and they say — the California guys, they come to me: ‘Sir, we are paying a lot of money to put our products into France and you’re letting’ — meaning, this country is allowing this French wine which is great, we have great wine, too, allowing it to come in for nothing. It is not fair. And you know what, it’s not fair. We’ll do something about it.”

The president previously tweeted about the issue in November of 2018, causing other Twitter users, both French and American, to challenge his take on the matter. Frédéric Engerer, president of the French winery Château Latour, quipped back with numbers comparing French and American wine tariffs.

According to the Wine Institute, a policy and advocacy group representing more than 1,000 California wineries, Engerer's figures are mostly accurate. The Wine Institute states that the U.S. import tariff on a 750 mL bottle is $0.05 for still wine and $0.14 for sparkling wine, while the EU import tariff per 750 mL bottle ranges from $0.11 to $0.29 depending on the alcoholic content of the wine.

The Wine Institute claims that “high tariff rates constitute the single most restrictive barrier to U.S. wine exports,” however, the French — known worldwide for their wine — do not import much American wine to begin with.

The U.S. received 32 percent of the European Union's 11.3 billion euros worth of exported wine in 2017. In contrast, member states of the EU imported a total of 12.9 billion euros worth of wine in 2017, only 20 percent of which came from outside the EU. Of that 20 percent, American wines only made up 16 percent of the imports.

American wine and food critic, Eric Asimov, explained in a series of Tweets why the French not buying American wine may have less to do with tariffs than with culture.