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‘Furious’ French winemakers say aid package for US tariffs is not enough

Burgundy winemakers in eastern France on Tuesday gave a thumbs down to the government's package of financial relief for lost sales from the 25 percent tariff imposed by US President Donald Trump.

'Furious' French winemakers say aid package for US tariffs is not enough
Photo: AFP

The US leader imposed the penalty last October after Washington won a long-running battle at the World Trade Organization over state subsidies to European planemaker Airbus.

The move took a heavy toll, with US imports of French wine dropping nearly half almost immediately, and Burgundy producers were especially hard hit.

“We're not happy,” said Thiebault Huber, president of the federation of official Burgundy appellations.

Late on Monday, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire announced that payroll taxes and other business charges would be waived for French winemakers hit by lost sales to the huge American market.

The government will also let producers distill up to two million hectolitres (equivalent to nearly 1.7 million barrels) of their excess stock into ethanol – which can be used to make sanitising hand gel during the coronavirus crisis.

The government will buy the ethanol at a guaranteed price, for a total of €140 million.

But unlike many other winemakers in France, Burgundy houses generally have little trouble selling as much of their prized whites and reds as they can make.

They also have some of the biggest overseas sales – more than have of all Burgundy wine (56 percent) is exported, and the US is the biggest buyer, with 20 percent of the total.

“We're not interested in distillation,” said Huber, adding that he was “furious”.

Louis-Fabrice Latour, head of the BIVB growers' association, agreed.

“We don't have any excess production in Burgundy. We only have two years' worth of stocks, so we don't distill.”

“What we want is help for our exports,” he said, adding that Burgundy sales outside France had fallen 8.7 percent by value in the first quarter.

Trump targeted French along with British, German and Spanish wines with the tariff, and his administration has since threatened whopping 100 percent tariffs on all European wine imports.

French wine associations last week had urged the government to unblock €500 million in aid, including a bigger emergency distillation plan for up to three million hectolitres.

They have also denounced the apparent lack of progress on an EU compensation package of €250 million to help offset the Trump tariffs.

“We're putting billions of euros into Air France or Airbus, but we're not helping a sector in peril,” Huber said.

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PARIS 2024 OLYMPICS

French authorities pay extra €111m for 2024 Olympics

French authorities have announced that they will increase their contribution to the 2024 Paris Olympic and Paralympic organising committee (Cojo) by €111 million.

French authorities pay extra €111m for 2024 Olympics

National and local government were heeding a request from Cojo, which said on November 21st that they needed to lift their budget estimate 10 per cent from €3.98 billion to €4.48bn, partly as a result of inflation.

Cojo are due to finalise the budget for running the Games at a board meeting on December 12th.

The French government has been funnelling its contribution through Solideo, the public company in charge of building projects.

Cojo is meant to be self-funding but had already received €100 million from the national government, ear-marked for the Paralympics.

National, Parisian and regional governments are all contributing but said they had not yet agreed who was paying how much.

They did say extra cash includes €71 million more for the Paralympics, €12 million for “sports equipment”, €15 million for regional “redevelopment projects” and €8 million for anti-doping.

With Cojo pressing ahead with an ambitious opening ceremony on the Seine, they said the budget for the four Olympic and Paralympic ceremonies is “up €30 million to €130 million”.

Cojo said sponsorship and ticket sales were ahead of projections.

Tony Estanguet, the Cojo president, said that inflation would be reflected in the prices of tickets for prime sessions and that the plan for free transport for the spectators, had been dropped. 

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