spiritNEWS June 2023

spiritsEUROPE takes part in FoodDrinkEurope mission to Washington D.C.

A FoodDrinkEurope delegation travelled to Washington D.C. in the week of 8-12 May 2023 to mark the food & drink industry’s commitment to the EU-US transatlantic relationship, discuss EU-US food and drink industry challenges and opportunities and forge new partnerships with industry colleagues from across the Atlantic. As Chair of FoodDrinkEurope’s Trade Working Group, spiritsEUROPE Trade Director Pauline Bastidon joined the mission, which was led by FoodDrinkEurope Director General Dirk Jacobs.

This mission – the first of its kind for FoodDrinkEurope – was extremely productive, setting the ground for a closer transatlantic relationship with business partners and covering many bi-lateral and global trade issues of significance to the food and drink industry. It was clear throughout the mission that EU & US food and drink industries have a lot in common, facing very similar challenges – not least with regards to sustainability, and would benefit from closer EU-US cooperation in many domains. This has of course been a longstanding message of the spirits sector: the level of integration of EU & US spirits sectors - with many EU spirits producers owning US spirits brands, and vice versa – has long called for close alignment & cooperation across the Atlantic.

One of the key topics discussed throughout the trip on the trade front was the trade disputes between the EU & the US – and particularly, the Section 232 dispute on steel & aluminium and the disputes on large civil aircraft (otherwise known as Airbus-Boeing disputes). In both cases, many food & drink products – not least spirits – have been caught in the cross-fire. Our industries, suppliers and supply chains greatly suffered from the imposition or threat of tariffs stemming from both the steel & aluminium dispute and the Airbus-Boeing disputes, both of which are wholly unrelated to our sectors. We are grateful for the suspension which has provided welcome relief at a time when we were and continue to face new acute challenges related to the war in Ukraine, high inflation – in particular in the energy sector – and supply chain and logistics disruptions. The suspension has allowed many companies to restart investing, creating jobs & growth in the process, on both sides of the Atlantic. Unfortunately, this suspension is currently only temporary, with a possible return of the retaliatory tariffs at the end of the year (in the case of steel & aluminium) and in 3 years from now (in the case of Airbus-Boeing) if a more permanent solution is not found. We got reassurance that there is a consensus that the disputes need to be resolved and retaliatory tariffs on agri-food products lifted for good. We can see the political will on both sides – but it needs to be matched by tangible progress in technical negotiations. There are still differences to work through to get there – and with elections foreseen in the EU & the US next year and the fact that retaliatory tariffs’ suspension is time limited, there is no time to waste to resolve these differences.  

All in all, the mission was instrumental in reaffirming the need for closer cooperation across the Atlantic. With no shortage of challenges – many of them common – to navigate through, but also many opportunities for mutual growth, one thing is clear: the transatlantic trade relationship remains more essential than ever, as is cooperation between EU & US authorities, on one hand, and EU & US producers, on the other.

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