Little men are the losers in US game of tit-for-tat

IT IS a classic example of what can happen when a couple of playground friends fall out. One child hits another; the other hits backs where it hurts. And these are precisely the tactics to which the United States has resorted in the continuing transatlantic trade war with its closest political allies.

Angry about a long-standing European Union ban on hormone-treated American beef, Washington has threatened to slap a punitive import tariff of 100 per cent on a catalogue of European products.

This is no random list. American trade officials clearly gave careful thought to selecting traditional products that would cause the most upset to EU member states.

French truffles, Dutch cut flowers and Spanish tomatoes are among the exports which will be in effect frozen by the crippling duties.

In the case of Britain, products close to the national heart - such as English mustard, liquorice allsorts, bacon and raspberry jam - were chosen. Hundreds of companies around the country, both large and small, will be affected. In the case of smaller businesses, the American move could jeopardise their survival.

The provisional list, announced on Monday, comes on top of products already affected by a parallel row with the US over European imports of bananas. These items include perfumes, bath oils and cashmere sweaters.

American officials are unabashed about their strategy, and made clear yesterday that it was a tit-for-tat aimed at forcing the EU to revoke the 10-year-old ban. They say that beef from cows injected with growth hormones is perfectly safe. The EU is not yet convinced, although Britain has no objection to its import.

Jay Ziegler, spokesman for the Office of US Trade Representatives, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Our hope is to provide an impetus for member states of the European Commission to come to the negotiating table and reach an effective compromise.

"This list has been drawn up with the idea of encouraging the member states to focus on the importance of reaching a negotiated solution. We are using our market leverage to send a very clear signal that if the European Union is unwilling to open its market, we will retaliate with action in kind."

British businesses, meanwhile, are at a loss to understand how they have become embroiled in an esoteric trade dispute with no relevance to the products that they send across the Atlantic.

Peter Cook, joint managing director of Tiptree Jams, a small Essex-based company that has been exporting its products to the US since early this century, said: "We are caught up like minnows in a pond while the politicians play games with us. The list is very odd. It seems to have been drawn up with no rhyme or reason. Why is only raspberry jam affected and no other jams?"

Certainly, the list of threatened goods makes for strange reading. It encompasses a whole range of meat products, such as "edible offal of bovine animals, fresh, chilled or frozen", and also lists "guts, bladders and stomachs of animals (other than fish), whole and pieces thereof".

More bizarrely, it also includes onions "other than onion sets, or pearl onions not over 16mm in diameter", dried carrots, corned beef, cough drops, yarn (but not sewing thread), motorcycles with 50-250cc engines and "hair clippers, with self-contained electric motor".

Roger Knowles, chairman of Woods of Windsor, a family perfume and toiletries company that has been trading since 1770, said: "They seem to have plucked out the victims at random. The list is an absurd mixture."

His company was hit by the earlier banana row, which led to the US imposing heavy duties on European luxury items. Bubble bath was deemed by the US authorities to be a luxury.

Mr Knowles said: "We have won the Queen's Award for exports twice. The failed politicians who run Europe should be helping, not hindering us."

Yesterday there was more bad news. A large American group telephoned to cancel a pounds 100,000 order for moisturising bath and shower cream.

Brett Bateman, managing director of Woods, said: "The Americans are very keen on quintessentially English products like ours. But they were not prepared to take the risk of having to pay the tariff once we had delivered them."

Manufacturers of traditional British confectionery, such as Terry's Chocolate Oranges and Trebor Basset's Liquorice Allsorts, will also be affected. Richard Johnson, a spokesman for York-based Terry's Suchard, said that the tariffs could cost the company millions of pounds in lost sales if the threat becomes a reality.

"Chocolate Oranges are a growing market for us in the US," said Mr Johnson, who pointed out that Terry's Suchard was owned by Kraft Foods, an American company. "There is a certain irony in the fact that a hit list drawn up in the US could end up affecting the fortunes of a US food group," he said.

Tunnock's, a Scottish family firm whose chocolate-covered caramel wafers are highly popular in the US, has been forced to suspend exports because of the crisis. The firm is also suffering from an import ban imposed three years ago by Saudi Arabia, which is avoiding British milk products because of the BSE scare.

The losers in this affair are not only the manufacturers in Britain. British expatriates in America rely on being able to buy traditional items from home, such as English jam and chocolate bars.

Brian Lownds Pateman, whose Torquay-based company, Lownds Pateman, exports ceramics and toiletries, said: "The whole affair has become very petty." To mark the banana dispute, which has hit his products, the firm has begun manufacturing banana split dishes. "I hope the Americans don't turn round and stick tariffs on them," he said.

Sport
Premier League Live
footballLIVE Follow all the Premier League action as it happens
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
peopleTV star had been reported missing
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Clinical Negligence Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: HAMPSHIRE MARKET TOWN - A highly attr...

Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone