‘I like the way they look’: Teetotaler Trump prefers US wine to French

Wine connoisseurs talk about needing "a nose" to assess the quality of a vintage. President Donald Trump just uses his eyes.

'I like the way they look': Teetotaler Trump prefers US wine to French
US President Donald Trump speaks to the media in the Oval Office July 26th. Photo: AFP

A famous teetotaler, Trump raised eyebrows Friday with his insistence that he likes US wine more than the French version. How could he know?

“I've always said American wine is better than French wine!” the president tweeted, while warning that he may raise import tariffs on France's iconic drink due to a dispute over French taxes targeting US tech companies.

Later in the Oval Office, he explained his technique.

“I don't drink wine. I just like the way they look.”

Trump vowed “substantial” retaliation against France for a tax targeting US tech giants, threatening to slap tariffs on French wine and bemoaning President Emmanuel Macron's “foolishness.”

“France just put a digital tax on our great American technology companies,” Trump tweeted about the law, which targets US giants like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon.

“We will announce a substantial reciprocal action on Macron's foolishness shortly,” he said.

Later, he confirmed earlier hints that wine may be the target.

“Might be on wine or something else,” he told reporters.

French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire indicated that Paris was not backing down on its tech taxes.

“Universal taxation of digital activities is a challenge for us all. We want to reach an agreement within the G7 and the OECD. In the meantime, France will implement its national decisions,” Le Maire said.

Trump has generally got along well with Macron, avoiding some of the more stormy episodes marring traditionally stable relations with other close US allies in Europe and Asia.

But his drive to correct what he sees as unfair trade practices by allies and rivals alike has stirred unprecedented discord.

And this is not the first time that he has mused about taking aim at France's renowned wine industry.

In June, he told CNBC television that domestic wine makers had complained to him about the difficulties of entering the European market.

“You know what? It's not fair. We'll do something about it,” he said.

The current row, however, is linked to a law passed by the French parliament this month on taxing digital companies for income even if their headquarters are elsewhere. This would aim directly at US-based global giants like Amazon.

Britain has announced plans for a similar tax.

Deputy White House spokesman Judd Deere noted that France's digital services tax was already the subject of an investigation at the US Trade Representative's office, potentially opening the door to economic sanctions.

Washington is “extremely disappointed by France's decision to adopt a digital services tax at the expense of US companies and workers,” Deere said.

“The Trump administration has consistently stated that it will not sit idly by and tolerate discrimination against US-based firms,” he said in a statement.
“The administration is looking closely at all other policy tools.”

Wine from the likes of California does face higher barriers than European imports in the other direction.

Depending on the type and alcohol content, imported wine faces US duties of 5.3 cents to 12.7 cents (5 to 12 euro centimes) a bottle, according to the US International Trade Commission. Sparkling wines are taxed a higher rate of about 14.9 cents a bottle.

US wines shipped to the European Union face duties of 11 to 29 cents a bottle, according to the Wine Institute, a trade body promoting US exports.

According to France's Federation for Wine and Spirit Exporters, a bottle of American white wine with an alcohol volume of 13 percent will be subjected to an 11-cent tax, while an equivalent bottle of European wine would pay about half that to enter the US.

The EU is the biggest importer of US wines. However, American wine exports are dwarfed in volume by the far bigger output from France, Italy and Spain.

READ ALSO: Trump orders investigation into France's planned tax on tech giants

Member comments

  1. France is right and brave to impose a 3% digital revenue tax. US ‘tech companies’ have abused the EU tax system for a long time. As far as wine is concerned the price of a nice California wine is higher than a French quality ditto. The tax on wine in either direction is mostly irrelevant. The big worry now is Trump’s and BoJo’s plans to destroy the EU. Let’s hope Macron can convince the Germans that they must start to lead.

  2. If Trump did drink wine it would be Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill or Thunderbird. I am not saying he lacks taste, he has lots, all bad.

  3. They are both a disaster for each country. Those of us who have chosen to make our lives European will feel the brunt even more. Whoever your God is, may he help us all because nothing else seems to be be working!

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Fact-checking Trump’s tweets: Does France really put steep tariffs on US wine?

President Donald Trump accused France on Tuesday of unfairly hindering US wine exports by imposing higher tariffs on the American product than those the United States places on imports of French wine.

Fact-checking Trump's tweets: Does France really put steep tariffs on US wine?
Vineyards in the Malibu region of California. Photo: AFP
The president is partly right: officially, France and its territories are part of the EU Customs Union and Paris does not set customs policy for the 28-member block.
But EU import duties on wine are higher than those imposed by Washington, which could be one reason that Europe, a historic center of wine production, buys less of the American product.
What are we verifying?
After participating in the weekend's centennial World War I commemorations in France, where bitter divisions among the transatlantic partners were on full display, Trump fired off a tweet accusing Paris of taking advantage of the United States in the wine trade.
“On Trade, France makes excellent wine, but so does the US,” Trump said on Twitter.
Photo: AFP
“The problem is that France makes it very hard for the US to sell its wines into France and charges big Tariffs, whereas the US makes it easy for French wines and charges very small Tariffs. Not fair, must change!”
The presidential tweet was entirely consistent with Trump's long-held view of international commerce: in his eyes, a trade deficit — i.e. when one country imports more than it exports — means that country is getting “killed,” “ripped off” or “crushed.”
Economists dispute the idea that trade deficits are entirely negative, as they allow industries and consumers access to lower-cost goods, especially when domestic production is not enough to meet demand.
What do we know?
As a member of the European Union, France does not set the economic bloc's uniform system for handling imports and exports. All 28 national customs services act in unison, applying common tariffs to all goods entering their borders that then move unhindered throughout the EU.
US border taxes on imported wine are nevertheless lower than those imposed by the EU.
Depending on the nature of the wine and its alcohol content, at the US border imported wine is dutiable at a rate of 5.3 cents to 12.7 cents per 750 ml bottle, according to the US International Trade Commission.
Bubbly is taxed a higher rate of about 14.9 cents a bottle.
On the other hand, according to the Wine Institute, a trade body promoting American exports, US wine entering Europe faces duties ranging from 11 to 29 cents per bottle depending on alcohol content.
Furthermore, Americans drink far more European wine than the other way around. The Wine Institute says that in 2017, the United States imported $4.5 billion in European wine but sold only $553 million intended for European drinkers.
For sparkling wines, the trade gap even more severe: $1.2 billion in champagne, prosecco, cava and other fizzy tipples went to America but only $3.5 million in American spumante was offloaded in the EU.
“Wine Institute believes the upcoming trade negotiations between the US and EU will create market opportunities by reducing tariffs and addressing other market access issues,” Robert Koch, the institute's president and CEO, said in a statement.