by Marco de Ceglie
The values and the image of the Italian Food and Beverage products in the USA are not affected by the political view of the Administration, of any Administration. Most US consumers have a high opinion of the Italian agricultural production and of Italian cuisine and have sentiments of “affection” towards Italy. The long-standing relationships between the two Countries and the contribution of Italian Americans to the development of the New World – including to the development of diverse and rich new food “traditions”, happened through decades and cannot change because of the result of an election.
However, although core values and traditions follow secular trends, availability and cost of products in a Country can be impacted by Trade Policies and these are indeed the expression of Administrations; the imposition in 2019 of tariffs by the USA on the import of European/Italian food products in relation to a dispute on airplane subsidies with the EU – unfortunately a bad idea recently copied by the EU for the same dispute – is a live example of possible import-export distortions that eventually impact producers and consumers.
From this point of view, we can expect the new US Administration to be more favorable towards broad international agreements and settlements (especially with long-standing partners like the EU), with much less emphasis on muscular bilateral negotiations. As I already stated in a Class-CNBC interview on November 10, this can only have positive outcomes for the Italian export of quality food and beverage products in the USA. The European and the Italian authorities should be very responsive to the opportunity and the Italian producers should renew their effort and investments to reach the American consumers.
Hopefully, a more positive and pro-active approach to international trade across the Atlantic, should be an opportunity also for the EU to address the many restrictions currently in place for imports into Europe. As shown by the above-mentioned Airbus/Boeing case, the WTO has found both sides “guilty” of unlawful subsidies; the EU is based on free trade within its boundaries, but it is by no means really open to free trade with the outside once internal interest must be protected. For example, try to import olive oil into Europe! And in some cases, tariffs can be effectively substituted by “regulations and standards” that reach the same purpose of limiting trade.
Free trade takes two to tango, let’s hope we have soon more opportunities to dance.