OPINION: Trade War Unfair to Italy

Filed under: Featured News |


What does an international quarrel between the world’s two largest aircraft makers have to do with Italian pasta and coffee?

Besides Americans smuggling back some stuffed shells in their luggage on the flight back from a trip to Rome, absolutely nothing. That’s why you might be surprised to find out that Italy – and the myriad of Italian goods Americans love – have been caught up in this mess.

For over a decade, the U.S. and some European countries have been duking it out at the World Trade Organization over alleged subsidies to the two biggest aircraft makers in the world – Boeing and Airbus. The U.S. has said that France and other countries have unlawfully subsidized Airbus.

In 2018, the WTO sided with the U.S. and found in favor of Boeing, agreeing with the U.S. claim that these four countries were illegally subsidizing Airbus. As a result, the U.S. is considering placing up to $25 billion in retaliatory tariffs on European countries.

Here’s the problem: Italy – a country that wasn’t found to be involved in the unlawful subsidization of Airbus – was included in the tariffs. Specifically, the U.S. is targeting 80 products of Italian origin, from pasta to coffee to cookies.

This makes zero sense. It’s other European nations who are at fault here, not Italy.

Unfairly including Italy in these tariffs threatens the mutually productive economic arrangement our two countries have maintained, and they threaten the continued growth and investment of Italian companies in America. Tariffs on Italian goods such as pasta, coffee, pastries, and cookies would raise consumer prices and harm U.S. jobs. Goods from Italy create a multitude of local jobs and down the supply chain, from importers to distributors to transportation companies to retailers.

And threaten these jobs for what purpose? It’s not as if Italy can remedy the situation with Airbus, because Italy has literally nothing to do with that dispute.

As one of the world’s 10 largest exporters, Italy is also positioned to be a strong ally in President Donald Trump’s efforts to combat the unfair trade practices of countries like China. In August, President Trump praised Italy’s Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, on Twitter, calling him a “very talented man” and lauding him for representing Italy “powerfully” at the G7 and for working well with the United States. Conte appears to be the kind of leader that President Trump can work with.

Our countries maintain a deep friendship and heritage, forged through the contributions Italian-Americans have made to the United States for over a century, in everything from film to culture and food. What would President Donald Trump’s home, New York City, or towns like mine, Hazleton, Pa., be without the millions of Italians who immigrated here?

Many Italian Americans, like myself, have also been strong supporters of President Trump’s efforts to Make America Great Again. His tough attitude and the strength he projects on the world stage – that’s something we instinctively get and respect, and it’s why I worked hard to spread his message across Pennsylvania in 2016, a state Donald Trump won against the odds.

That’s why I’m asking the Trump administration to take another look at these tariffs and remove those against Italy. There’s nothing wrong with the United States holding bad actors to account, and the U.S. is more than entitled to defend our industries from illegal foreign subsidies.

Targeting Italy in this matter is not fair, and I have no doubt that the President would agree.

Lou Barletta is a former U.S. congressman from Pennsylvania.

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