The United States tariffs on EU exports will not include bound books, the Publishers Association has admitted, after originally branding the move “completely unacceptable”.
On Friday, the UK PA said printed books from the EU were going to be targeted by US tariffs. It has since emerged that the tariff on books from the UK and Germany does not apply to bound printed books, though it will apply to unbound books and some other printed items.
As a result of Thursday's WTO ruling, the US will slap tariffs on hundreds of EU products, including "printed books, brochures, leaflets and similar printed matter in single sheets, whether or not folded" from Germany and the UK.
The UK PA originally took this to include bound books with Stephen Lotinga, chief executive of the Publishers Association, calling it "completely unacceptable that book exports are collateral damage" in the dispute. Hours later the association later clarified its point around a slimmer definition.
Admitting its error, the PA said that following its pronouncement it had further indication that the tariffs targetted a "slimmer definition around printed matter that doesn’t include printed, bound books". Nevertheless, the US action and response indicate the febrile atmosphere that now exists in international trade, with Britain's likely crash out of the European Union at the end of this month adding to the confusion. In its clarification, the PA warned that "the US government can decide to amend the list, adding to or expanding the exact products included within that code prior to implementation".
In its later statement, the PA noted: “That said, there is the possibility that the US government can decide to amend the list, adding to or expanding the exact products included within that code prior to implementation–so this inclusion is still of concern. We will continue to monitor closely, including any changes to the current product lists and definitions.”
The American Association of Publishers confirmed the tariffs apply to printed matter in single sheets, saying "finished books do not seem to be currently affected."
The tariffs on $7.5bn of EU exports are the latest clash in a 15-year battle between the US and EU over illegal subsidies for Airbus and US rival Boeing, after the World Trade Organisation (WTO), gave Washington the green light to impose the tariffs as punishment for illegal EU aircraft subsidies.
The US trade representative’s office released a list of hundreds of European products, including Scotch and Irish whiskies, French wine, coffee, cheese and olives, that will be subject to a 25% tariff. The US will slap 10% tariffs on European-made Airbus planes, with the tax to come into effect by 18th October.
In 2018, UK publishers exported printed books worth £128m in invoiced value to North America. The tariffs come after the US imposed tariffs on books from China in an escalating trade war with Beijing, earlier this year.
Ray Ambriano of Meadows Wye & Co., an international logistics company specialising in the publishing industry, told Publishers Weekly that US trade representative's office's classification does not apply to bound books.