WI companies and farmer groups hail end of US-EU trade dispute

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Wisconsin agriculture and manufacturing companies applauded the news that the United States had reached a trade deal with the European Union that would end retaliatory tariffs on American products.

President Joe Biden’s administration has announced that it has reached a deal to cut tariffs on European steel and aluminum that were put in place by former President Donald Trump in 2018. The deal means that the EU will roll back tariffs it had imposed on American products, including cranberries, motorcycles and some dairy products made in Wisconsin.

Tom Lochner is executive director of the Wisconsin Cranberry Growers Association. He said the 25 percent tariff on US cranberry concentrate has hampered the ability of Wisconsin growers to compete with Canadians in the EU, which is the largest market for US cranberries.

Lochner said the industry is also relieved that the new deal was reached before a 25 percent tariff on dried cranberries could be added in December.

“When you see a 25% price difference, it becomes a little more difficult to compete in this market. Because to be competitive in terms of price, the 25% comes from the margins on which we sell fruit. there and it becomes less profitable to sell fruit in the EU, ”Lochner said.

He said cranberry growers have also felt the ripple effects of declining imports of European aluminum to the United States and how this has affected other supply chains.

“A lot about the swamps in terms of equipment, water control structures and other equipment is made from aluminum. So we saw price increases and also an uptime challenge,” Lochner said. .

Lochner said some processors are also struggling to find the aluminum cans they need to package cranberry products. He said a company in Wisconsin told him this summer that his US can supplier was unable to fill his orders and was forced to switch to an out-of-country supplier.

“They paid a higher price. From what I understood, the cans were a metric size rather than a size that we use in the United States, which required changes to their lines. packaging and things like that, ”Lochner said. “These subtle costs impact our ability to bring the product to market and do so profitably without seeing price increases for the consumer.”

Milwaukee-based motorcycle company Harley-Davidson Inc. released a statement on Saturday thanking the Biden administration for finding a solution with the EU, calling it a “big win” for the company and its dealers in Europe.

“We are delighted that this brings an end to a conflict that was beyond our control and in which Harley-Davidson had no place. This is a significant course of change in US-European trade relations. , which will allow us to advance Harley-Davidson’s position as the world’s most desirable motorcycle brand, ”President and CEO Jochen Zeitz said in the statement.

Tyler Wenzlaff, director of government relations for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau, said ending the multi-year trade dispute would also likely have a broader positive impact on farm prices.

For example, Wenzlaff said Wisconsin farmers do not export much of their corn, but will always benefit from higher corn sales and prices resulting from increased exports.

“Whenever you get into an economic struggle between countries, it’s really the producers who pay the most. And we’ve seen that not only with the EU, but also with China and the soybean markets,” Wenzlaff said.

He said the Farm Bureau hopes that reaching a deal with the EU will give the Biden administration the momentum it needs to finally settle these other trade disputes around the world.

“With the schools and restaurants being closed by COVID, the addition of tariffs has had a double whammy for our producers in the state,” Wenzlaff said. “With the slow growth of the return to normal that we have seen, with the opening of the markets and then with this (trade agreement), we hope that with each new announcement, we can start to come back to the market that we have. seen. previously. “

This story is republished with permission from Wisconsin Public Radio

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