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By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson
Lotinga: ‘We’re Deeply Concerned’
The UK’s Publishers Association’s chief Stephen Lotinga is among the first to blast the administration of Donald Trump for the fact that books are included in US$7.5 billion of European Union goods targeted by Trump tariffs.
This morning in London (October 4), Lotinga has released a statement from the association’s Southwark Street offices, saying, “We are deeply concerned about this development and raised it immediately with the Department for International Trade and the Intellectual Property Office.
“It’s completely unacceptable that book exports are collateral damage in an unconnected trade matter. “We will continue to argue in the strongest possible terms against tariffs that could be damaging to the trade and are in nobody’s interest.”
And what’s the level of concern?
The Publishers Association points out in its urgent news media messaging this morning that in 2018, publishers in the United Kingdom exported printed books worth £128 million (US$158 million) in invoiced value to North America.
FEP: Tariffs Counter to Florence Agreement
Publishers “cannot accept that book exports are collateral damage in an unconnected trade matter. Books should never be held hostage of trade disputes.”Anne Bergman-Tahon, Federation of European Publishers
At request this morning, Anne Bergman-Tahon, director of the Federation of European Publishers (FEP), has issued a statement, concurring with the UK’s Publishers Association and warning of holding books “hostage to trade disputes.”
“European publishers believe this is contrary to the Florence Agreement of UNESCO,” a reference to a 1950 international accord that said, as Bergman-Tahon describes it. “The contracting states undertake not to apply customs duties or other charges on, or in connection with, the importation of books, publications, and documents.”
As she notes, however, the United States is not a signatory to Florence.
Nevertheless, she stresses to us, the world publishing industry “cannot accept that book exports are collateral damage in an unconnected trade matter. Books should never be held hostage of trade disputes.”
USTR: Tariffs Could Be Levied by October 18
Another darkening reflection of the scandal-ridden White House’s erratic economic moves, the EU tariffs were given a go-ahead on Wednesday when the World Trade Organization authorized them, based on European Union subsidies to Airbus. According to comment from the US Trade Representative (USTR) office in Washington, the tariffs could be imposed as quickly as October 18—one resounding sour note on which to end the 2019 Frankfurter Buchmesse week for trade visitors. Rates are expected to come in at some 10 percent on airline jets and 25 percent on other goods.
The USTR’s listing of affected product groups includes, at point 4901.10.00 “Printed books, brochures, leaflets, and similar printed matter in single sheets, whether or not folded,” and these are “Section 4” products, meaning—according to the document—that they are part of a group of “products of Germany or the United Kingdom subject to additional import duties of 25 percent ad valorem.”
In commentary carried by Emre Peker and Josh Zumbrun at , writing respectively from Brussels and Washington, William Reinsch, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, is warning, “I’m tempted to say it will poison the well on other US-EU trade issues, but the well is pretty poisoned anyway.” He adds that the Trump administration “wants to watch the Europeans squirm for a while.”
The Airbus factor is the leverage the administration had looked for, prompting Trump in his news conference with the Finnish president this week to call the WTO ruling a “very nice victory” for the States.
As Ana Swanson wrote at , “The World Trade Organization’s decision brings to an end a roughly 15-year dispute over the financial assistance that Europe provides to its major plane maker. The organization ruled last May that Europe had illegally subsidized several of Airbus’s models.
“On Wednesday morning, the global trade body announced that the United States could seek to recoup $7.5 billion in damages by imposing tariffs, the largest authorized retaliation in the organization’s history.”
AAP and China Tariffs: American Parallels
Expressions of alarm from other book-publishing bodies in the international trade are expected to join those of the Publishers Association, not least because books have traditionally been exempted from trade sanctions on the basis of their special-status value in the cultural and educational context.
Under the Trump administration, however, the Trade Representative has seemed less able to honor such protections, as condemned by the Association of American Publishers (AAP) in its own extensive testimony to the USTR this summer.
As readers will recall, the European Union action by the Trump White House follows the much larger round of tariffs imposed on China trade, in which American trade, educational, and professional titles have remained vulnerable despite the USTR moving Bibles, children’s picture books, and calendar printings to a December 15 date, ostensibly to clear the onset of holiday shopping.
AAP president and CEO Maria Pallante a month ago called on her member-publishers to begin reporting to the association’s leadership where they predict to suffer the most damaging of the incoming effects of tariffs on American book products.
What becomes additionally concerning now, of course, is that the WTO’s ruling gives a sense of license to proponents of Trump’s trade-war footing.
The Associated Press’ coverage of the WTO decision on Airbus, as carried here by MarketWatch, includes the reaction of the EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom, who is quoted saying that the tariff war “would only inflict damage on businesses and citizens on both sides of the Atlantic, and harm global trade and the broader aviation industry at a sensitive time.
“If the US decides to impose WTO authorized countermeasures, it will be pushing the EU into a situation where we will have no other option than to do the same.”