Trump's Food Tariffs Hit U.S. Consumers Where it Hurts

New tariffs on E.U. goods mean we'll all pay more for tasty cheeses and delicious wines.


A new round of food tariffs totaling $7.5 billion—imposed by the Trump administration last week on foods hailing from European Union member countries—is already impacting your wallet, USA Today reports.

Targets of the new tariffs include Scotch, liqueurs, wines, pork products, cheeses, fruits, and seafood.

Those tariffs, paired with others already in place, are hitting American consumers where it hurts most. Even before the latest tariffs, food costs were nearly two percent higher last month than they were a year ago.

"New 25 percent U.S. tariffs on Italian cheese, French wine, Scotch whisky, British biscuits, Spanish olives and thousands of other European food products will lead to higher prices ahead of the holiday season and cost American jobs," Reuters reports.

While awful, these tariffs could have been even worse. The Trump administration, ahead of the WTO ruling, signaled its intent to slap 100 percent tariffs on a host of E.U.-origin foods, including wines, cheeses, and olive oils, Salon reported last month before the WTO ruling.

The negative impact of these tariffs is already apparent.

A policy brief published last month by the National Foundation for American Policy, a nonprofit that focuses on trade issues, found the Trump "administration's tariffs will have cost the average household $1,315 over a two-year period."

The tariffs are sowing uncertainty at home. The Dallas Observer reports U.S. restaurateurs and grocers that sell E.U. goods are unsure who will eat the 25 percent tariffs—them, importers, consumers, or, as seems most likely, all of the above. Regardless, experts say they'll hit U.S. small business particularly hard.

Unsurprisingly, the tariffs are also bad for E.U. food producers.

"French vintners are begging for government aid," ABC News reports. "Italian farmers are scrambling for new export markets."

The WTO's green light for the U.S. to impose tariffs on E.U. goods was meant to punish the E.U. for illegally subsidizing aircraft maker Airbus. But with the WTO yet to rule on a European complaint about American government subsidies for U.S. aircraft maker Boeing, it's likely the E.U. will soon get the green light to impose its own round of retaliatory tariffs on U.S. food producers. 

This tit for tat doesn't have a logical end point. Consider that the E.U. imposed tariffs on some American food products last year in response to U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs.

In addition to the E.U. food producers, the victims of these tariffs include American consumers—who now pay more for European goods—and U.S. producers, who will likely face their own tariffs down the road if the WTO rules, as expected, in the Boeing case.

In 2018, I lamented the fact Trump administration's plans to impose a host of tariffs on Chinese goods—particularly food. Retaliatory Chinese tariffs followed. Tariffs, I wrote, "cost jobs; hurt domestic and foreign producers, consumers, and taxpayers; put the petty interests of government over those of the public; and are prone to spinning out of control."

Then, in a column this summer, I noted that Trump already had doubled down on his anti-China tariffs, hurting U.S. farmers and consumers alike.

I also cautioned that things could get worse on the tariffs front. This month, they've done just that.

To be fair, the E.U. and China are just as wrongheaded to impose tariffs on U.S. foods as the U.S. is to impose tariffs on foods from the E.U. and China. Trade is good for everyone. Trade wars, like most real wars, ultimately don't benefit anyone, save the saber-rattling populists and protectionists who support them.