Trade body 'deplores' US tariffs on print

Jo Francis
Thursday, October 10, 2019

European trade federation Intergraf has hit out against the inclusion of printed matter in the burgeoning US-EU trade dispute, citing the UK and Germany as the biggest losers if tariffs on $7.5bn-worth of European exports are imposed.

A list of products that will be subject to additional duties was published last week by the US trade body. It includes single sheets and decals/transfers but not, at present, bound books.

Intergraf said that 70% of European printed products exported to the US originated from the UK and Germany, with more than 50% of the products traded being books.

It said that last year the UK exported €487m (£439m) worth of printed products to the US, while Germany’s export figure was €158m.

Tariffs are due to be imposed on 18 October, as part of a long-running trade dispute relating to subsidies given to Airbus and its US rival Boeing that dates back to 2004.

BPIF chief executive Charles Jarrold said that the possible inclusion of books had been a major concern, but even so the value of ‘printed sheets’ exported to the US from the UK was still £108m.

“That is a big number and it is damaging to the industry. All tariffs are bad news because there’s a cost to industry and a cost to consumers. There is a need to collectively sort this out because everyone loses,” he said.

“The real concern is that it then escalates into tit-for-tat actions.”

The UK printing industry could also be impacted by tariffs on food and beverage products that involve high-value printed packaging, such as Scotch Whisky.

BPIF economist Kyle Jardine noted: “The other concerns are the knock-on consequences from tariffs on whisky because of the printed labels and premium packaging that surrounds the whisky trade.”

Jardine said that the trade figures were complicated by the use of two different coding systems. He said that according to the BPIF’s analysis the UK exported £385m of printed products to the US including books, brochures and leaflets. Of that, £108m of print in single sheets would be subject to the 25% tariff.

Intergraf said it “deplored the inclusion of printed matter” and supported the efforts of the BPIF and its German equivalent the BVDM “against these damaging sanctions”.

The Office of the United States Trade Representative won a ruling from the WTO last week over the subsidies dispute. It said the tariffs would be applied to a range of imports from EU member states “with the bulk of the tariffs being applied to imports from France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom – the four countries responsible for the illegal [Airbus] subsidies.”

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