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Restaurants urge Congress to kill inflation-fueling tariffs

With Congress looking to temper inflation, the National Restaurant Association has suggested it look at the fees levied on imports. The White House has already taken steps in that direction.
Photograph: Shutterstock

Struggling to put a rein on the inflation trampling restaurants and consumers alike, Congress and the Biden administration are intensifying their focus on the steep tariffs that were put into place by President Trump to protect some American businesses.

Restaurants added their voice to the discussion this week, using the occasion of hearings before a Senate subcommittee to stress that neighborhood restaurants are paying a steep price, literally, for the protections that have been afforded select mega-industries.

“Key commodities are creating whiplash for restaurants and customers, especially for eggs (259.9%), butter (50%), unprocessed fin fish (47.3%), flour (36.7%), fats and oils (32.5%), and processed poultry (25.2%),” Sean Kennedy, EVP of public affairs for the National Restaurant Association, said in a letter to the Finance Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Global Competitiveness.

He highlighted the particular experiences of small operations like Grotto Pizza in Rehoboth Beach, Del., which had to pay 21% more for the kitchen equipment than it would have 14 months earlier. That’s in addition to paying 10% more for its 10 best-selling products than it did 12 to 18 months ago.

Kennedy noted that Maguire’s Craft Kitchen & Catering in Dallas is paying two to three times what it did prior to this year for supplies ranging from boneless chicken breasts to a rooftop HVAC unit. And that’s if the supplies can be found at all, he added.

“We write today to urge Congress to help remove harmful tariffs that are contributing these supply chain challenges and price inflation,” Kennedy stated.

The White House, meanwhile, has already taken steps to exempt more incoming steel and aluminum, key components of many kitchen supplies, from tariffs, At the end of May, President Biden signed an executive order altering the amount of exempted “raw” and processed steel and aluminum that’s imported from the United Kingdom.

However, Biden specified in the executive order about steel imports, “I have determined that it is necessary and appropriate, at this time, to maintain the current tariff level as it applies to other countries.

He seemed to be referencing imports from China, a major source of the raw materials and processed supplies used by restaurants.

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