Trump Is Having a Twitter Tantrum Over French Wine Tariffs

President Trump is a teetotaler, but that isn't stopping him from having OPINIONS when it comes to wine.

Nov 13 2018, 9:51pm

Photos:  Antoine Gyori/Getty Images and

Stijn Nieuwendijk

Three years ago today, Paris was devastated by a well-coordinated series of six terrorist attacks that included four suicide bombers and four shootings in four locations. That night, 130 people were killed, including 90 at the Bataclan theatre, and more than 400 were injured. It was the deadliest night in the French capital since World War II.

President Donald Trump chose to respectfully remember this tragedy by spending more than an hour rage-tweeting about France and its president, Emmanuel Macron. From 6:50 AM until 8:18 AM, Trump sent four tweets about France’s involvement in both World Wars (“How did that work out for France?”), about Macron’s approval rating, and about increasing the tariffs on French wines. He also used three exclamation points; a two-part, 13-period ellipsis; and concluded the entire thing with an all-caps “MAKE FRANCE GREAT AGAIN!”

But back to that wine thing. “On Trade, France makes excellent wine, but so does the U.S.,” he wrote. “The problem is that France makes it very hard for the U.S. to sell its wines into France, and charges big Tariffs, whereas the U.S. makes it easy for French wines, and charges very small Tariffs. Not fair, must change!”

Some notes: First, Trump used to own a winery in Charlottesville, Virginia, but he passed the Trump Winery on to his son, Eric. That doesn’t mean that either Trump knows shit about good wine: One wine expert told Vanity Fair that the Trump Meritage red tasted like “Welch’s grape jelly with alcohol.”

But next—and more importantly—does this mean that Trump is threatening some kind of wine-related trade war with France? Who knows! But since the EU is considered one big trading bloc, it would affect all of its member states, not just France. According to Bloomberg, the EU exported €11.3 billion worth of wine last year, and the United States welcomed 32 percent of that total.

Although those same countries imported €12.7 billion worth of wine, only 20 percent of it was from outside the EU. Most of those wines were from Australia and Chile, with only a sliver (16 percent) coming from the United States. But (and this is a big but) the BBC reports that exports only make up 5 percent of the total wine sales in the United States.

“High tariff rates constitute the single most restrictive barrier to US wine exports,” the Wine Institute harrumphs. “According to the World Bank, the average simple-applied import tariff including all products worldwide in 2015 is 6.8 percent; without including the preferential rates the average is 30.4 percent. Virtually all US wine exports to the major markets, other than Canada, face tariffs that are double or triple those rates.”

For example, the EU’s import tariff on a 750-milliliter bottle of ‘Merican wine ranges from 11 cents to 29 cents per bottle, depending on the wine itself. By contrast, our own import tariff on the same bottle from the EU is 5 cents for ‘still’ wine and 14 cents for sparkling wine.

Depending on how things play out—and how long Trump stays fixated on France—this could negatively affect French wine producers, as well as those in Spain, Italy, and other EU countries. But if the EU retaliates, it could also screw US wineries: just ask the ones who are caught up in the President’s potential trade war with China. Its government included wine on its list of 128 American products that could face tariffs, so the US is currently exporting zero bottles to the country.

The California Wine Institute told the BBC that the proposed 15 percent tariff could be “catastrophic” to its attempts to further popularize US wines in China. (And California wines would suffer more than, say Trump Vineyards; in 2016, Chinese tourists made up the largest percentage of foreign visitors to Napa Valley).

The French will clearly be fine if the price of US wines increase. (How many of them would actually notice?) But how are we Americans supposed to survive… ALL OF THIS if it’s harder or more expensive to get shitfaced on a good French red? Let’s just hope nobody mentioned this whole thing to President Macron.