The file is brought up to the Elysee Palace, on the desk of Emmanuel Macron. It must be said that for several weeks, the wine industry has been increasing the number of outings to punch the table. And denounce the impressive fall in turnover in the past two months.
Because since mid-October, French wines have been subjected to the full force of American financial reprisals, authorized by the World Trade Organization (WTO) following the subsidies granted by the European Union to Airbus. Struck by a 25% increase in American taxes since October 18, wine exports fell by 17.5% in the last quarter of 2019, representing a loss of turnover of more than 40 million euros.
“In 2019, French wine exports increased by 16% to the United States. But this is a deceptive figure, warns Antoine Leccia, the president of the Federation of Wine and Spirits Exporters (FEVS). In reality, everyone knew that the sanctions were going to end up so that the advance mailings exploded. But when you look at the latest figures, exports drop 40% in November and 50% in December. This is why we urgently request a compensation fund of 300 million euros. "
"A European question", according to the ministry
FEVS is not alone in making this request. In all wine regions, professionals are heard to claim this compensation fund. In Bercy, the hot potato is returned to the Ministry of Agriculture. "We are studying the possibility of implementing aid of around twenty million euros to supplement our promotion fund," said the firm of Didier Guillaume. The goal? Help winegrowers - plagued by trade wars, the fall in exports to China, and chilly relations with the United Kingdom in the context of Brexit ... - to diversify their markets, especially to Latin America.
But around twenty million euros is still far from the 300 million requested by the sector. "The decision whether or not to set up a compensation fund is a European question," retorts the Ministry of Agriculture. The Italians are also demanding one, because exports of olive oil, also taxed by 25%, have fallen sharply. But the Germans refuse for the moment the establishment of an aid fund. However, unanimous agreement is required. "
In the cabinet of Didier Guillaume, it is assured that Emmanuel Macron insisted on putting this subject on the agenda of exchanges of European heads of state during the meeting of February 20.
No question, however, of waiting, arms crossed, for any decisions from Brussels. On February 14, wine professionals had an appointment with the president of Airbus Guillaume Faury to, perhaps, obtain financial assistance. "He must understand that our industry is paying a heavy price in turnover and soon in jobs because Airbus has received European subsidies, denounces Antoine Leccia. We are collateral victims. "
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The day before, during a press conference on February 13, the boss of the aeronautical giant, however, seemed to rule out any possibility of funding: "I understand their deep frustration at being taken hostage," he reacted. We try to help as much as possible, but we are not against each other in this situation, at least in my opinion. "