By David Shepardson
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A bipartisan group of 13 U.S. senators have asked the U.S. Trade Representative's Office (USTR) to remove 25% tariffs imposed in October 2019 on European Union food, wine and spirits, according to a letter seen by Reuters.
The tariffs, in retaliation for EU subsidies on large aircraft, hit French wine, Italian cheese and single-malt Scotch whisky, as well as cookies, salami, yogurt, olives from France, EU-produced pork sausage and German coffee.
Seven Republican and six Democratic senators, including Robert Menendez, John Barrasso, Cory Gardner, Susan Collins, Dianne Feinstein, Pat Toomey, Kyrsten Sinema and Cory Booker said in a letter to USTR Friday that American "restaurants, retailers, grocers, importers and distributors" are experiencing "severe economic hardship due to the increased cost of goods."
The senators noted "demand for these goods has declined, leaving importers and distributors with months’ worth of product, much of it perishable, in storage and in transit with no clear end date for the COVID-19 pandemic."
USTR did not immediately comment.
Last month, Europe's Airbus <AIR.PA> said it would increase loan repayments to France and Spain in a "final" bid to reverse U.S. tariffs and jog the United States into settling a 16-year-old dispute over billions of dollars of aircraft subsidies.
The United States last year won World Trade Organization authorization to impose tariffs on up to $7.5 billion of EU goods.
The U.S. Distilled Spirits Council last month urged ending EU and U.S. beverage tariffs, saying drinks firms on both sides of the Atlantic "have suffered enough."
The group noted Scotch Whisky imports by the United States fell nearly 33% between October 2019 and May 2020, a $378 million decline over the same period a year earlier.
The EU in a separate dispute imposed 25% tariffs on all U.S. whiskey imports in June 2018. Since then, U.S. whiskey exports to the EU have fallen by 33%, or $300 million, the group said.
Trade groups are bracing for an escalation this autumn when the EU is expected to win WTO approval to retaliate with its own tariffs over subsidies for U.S. planemaker Boeing Co <BA.N>.
USTR announced in June it was considering imposing additional tariffs on products from many EU countries including gin, vodka, beer, sparkling wine and other whiskies.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Christopher Cushing)