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U.S. Chefs Worried About Possible 100 Percent Punitive Tariff on Mustards from France
WASHINGTON, April 20, 1999 - Noted chefs Chef Jeffrey Buben of Vidalia and Bistro Bis, Jeff Tunks of DC Coast, Michel Richard of Citronelle, Ris Lacoste of 1789, David Scribner of Felix, and Robert Wiedmaier of Marcel today urged U.S. Trade Representative Charlene Barshefsky to lay off the mustard.

U.S. trade officials are deciding on a list of European targets for retaliation because of the European Union's refusal to allow imports of hormone-treated U.S. beef. Buben says the "Section 301 Committee" chaired by U.S. Trade Representative Barshefsky would make a serious mistake if it slaps a 100 percent punitive tariff on mustards from France.

"Traditional mustards from France are essential to our recipes. No substitute is available from the United States," said the chefs.

Buben took their message directly to Barshefsky's panel yesterday. "It may be tempting for others to take condiments and ingredients for granted," Buben testified, "but these items are essential to my business as well as to thousands of other entrepreneurs in the restaurant and food service business. My reputation, and the success or failure of my business, depends on my recipes, of which an essential ingredient is prepared mustard from France. Neither the United States nor any non-EC country produces a suitable quality or supply of mustard for my business needs."

French mustard companies are "good guys" on free trade issues, the chefs said. They pointed to the French mustard business' involvement in two-way trade for American and European condiments. Amora Maille, the biggest exporter of French mustard to the U.S., for example, is Tabasco's sole distributor in France. "Last year they sold $2.5 million worth of Tabasco in France. That's almost as much as the value of all the mustard they sell to the U.S."

In Avery Island, La., Paul C.P. McIlhenny, Chief Executive Officer of McIlhenny Company, maker of Tabasco sauce, said "There is no rhyme or reason for escalating this trade problem into a 'condiment war.'"

Bistro Bis

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