Tag Archives: government assistance

Slow government support pushes German retailers over the edge | Business | Economic and financial news from a German perspective | DW | Instant News

A few steps from Berlin’s most famous shopping street, Kurfürstendamm, is a small shoe shop run by Udo Robakowski. The shop, Schuh Konzept, is a fashionable boutique with a full length shelf of formal shoes for men and women. Prices range from € 200 to € 1,500 ($ 240 to $ 1,800).

The only problem is there are no customers – and it has been since December 16 when Germany forced all non-essential shops to close to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Since then, the lockdown has been in place extended twice and is currently in its place until at least March 7. Judging by the previous extension, it might not be the last one, which makes general hygiene and planning rules almost a waste of time and energy.

During these weeks and months of uncertainty, all retailers other than wholesalers, pharmacies and drugstores have closed and customers simply abandoned. There are very few exceptions; not even a hair salon or do-it-yourself hardware store is open yet.

When experience doesn’t help

Robakowski, who is a professional shoemaker, has been in the business for 22 years. During that time he had three shops, all on the same street. Each one is bigger than the last. Nine years ago, he moved to his current location. Even with all her experiences, she didn’t know what else to do and called the situation a “catastrophe.”

A pair of boots in the works

With so many people working at home and no big events, people don’t buy shoes the way they used to. In addition, he missed many important Christmas shopping seasons.

The stock of unsold shoes was piling up. Now a shipment of new shoes, long ordered, has arrived. Plus in the next few weeks, orders are due for fall / winter. With business down by about 50% last year, it will be a small order.

Can small shops compete?

Robakowski is not alone. Overall, The German economy shrank 5% last year. On February 16, Economy Minister Peter Altmaier made another promise quick help for business. Earlier this year he predicted growth would only reach 3% in 2021. That’s down 1.4% from the previous estimate.

For retailers, much of what is being sold is sold online. Last year Germans spent more than € 83 billion online, a 14% increase in 2019, according to figures compiled by the German E-Commerce and Remote Trading Association (bevh). The biggest online purchases are clothes and electronics.

In general, consumer confidence has fallen and the German Retail Federation (HDE) continues to warn that 50,000 stores with 250,000 employees are now facing bankruptcy due to lockdown measures. Unsurprisingly, those who sell clothing, leather goods and shoes are especially vulnerable.

Shoes waiting to be repaired, the only source of income today

Shoes waiting to be repaired, the only source of income today

Little silver lining

Unlike most other retailers in the area, Robakowski is able to keep his doors open because he offers an in-store shoe repair service. There are still days when only two or three customers come to pick up or drop off the shoes for a total of € 60 for repair.And even if the customer sees a nice pair of shoes while there, he can’t sell them anything.

Selling online didn’t make sense to him either, because he had to fight big companies. The work it takes to sell a few shoes on the side isn’t worth marketing, shipping, and returns. He does offer an interactive online shoe repair calculator, the first of its kind, he says. Though these shoes need to be brought to the store to work on.

Udo Robakowski in his Berlin shoe shop shoe concept

Udo Robakowski in his Berlin shoe shop shoe concept

Robakowski has signed up for government assistance programs in December and January. So far he hasn’t received anything. “I need direct financial assistance and the government doesn’t seem to be taking it seriously enough,” he told DW.

He understands that we are in for an extraordinary time, but policymakers have a year to prepare. “Everything took too long and didn’t help get December aid in April,” he complained.

Facing an uncertain future

Until now, Robakowski has been able to retain 11 of his employees, even though they are still working short term work program who pay a portion of their salary.

Others on the street used forced closures to renovate. Some are closed for good. The shoemaker is expecting a lot of empty storefronts in the future. The city may never be the same.

Luckily the landlord helped. During the first lockdown last spring, she was allowed to skip two months of rent and pay only utilities. Now he has an agreement to pay whatever he can; once everything returns to normal, he will sit down with his owner and see what can be arranged. But most were not that lucky.

Shoe form in the Udo Robakowski repair room, Berlin (photo: Timothy A. Rooks)

Shoe form in Udo Robakowski’s repair room

Although he was personally fortunate in a bad situation, Robakowski thought that more solidarity from banks and landlords was needed to get through these difficult times. This is a job that only the government can arrange.

Robakowski is sure he will not go out of business. His entrepreneurial spirit was fading but still burning. Apart from direct financial support, what he needs most is planning security. But no matter what, he would find something, even if it meant moving to a smaller location and releasing some of the staff. Asked if he thought his shop would actually be allowed to open on March 7, he replied: “I would believe it if that happened.”

Skin coloring is waiting for more business (photo: Timothy A. Rooks)

Skin coloring is waiting for more business


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Rates for Wine, Food from Europe for the Current Stay, said the US | Instant News

WASHINGTON – The Biden government has said it will not end tariffs on European wine, cheese and other food imports any time soon – upsetting industry groups who say the levy is hurting US restaurants and consumers.

The US Trade Representative’s Office said on Friday that there was no need for now to suspend levies, which the Trump administration imposed as part of a long-running dispute with the European Union over subsidies for commercial aircraft.

In a regulatory filing, the USTR said it would “continue to consider the actions taken in the investigation,” referring to a 17-year-old dispute about how the government is subsidizing Boeing Co. and Airbus SE. The Biden administration said it was reviewing tariffs and other major trade policy measures adopted by the previous administration.

Under the Trump administration, the dispute has turned into a tariff fight that has ensnared a food and beverage industry unrelated to aircraft manufacturing. Washington imposed tariffs on $ 7.5 billion worth of European wine and food such as cheese and olives by the end of 2019.

The European Union retaliated with levies on US whiskey, nuts and tobacco worth an estimated $ 4.5 billion. The US increased sanctions on December 31 with additional tariffs, putting nearly all wine imports from France and Germany below 25%.


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Italian Government Prays About How to Revive the Post-Covid-19 Economy | Instant News

ROME – Amid the pandemic, one sign of normality is returning to Italy: political instability.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s government is struggling to avoid collapse after members of a small coalition threatened to withdraw vital support from parliament. The Viva Italia party, led by former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, has long been skeptical of Conte’s leadership and is increasing pressure on a range of issues, including how to reconstruct Italy’s economy hit after the pandemic.

If Renzi pulls out of the coalition, forcing Conte to step down, possible outcomes range from a new government with the same center-left leader to elections likely to be won by a rival center-right alliance.

Many observers expect Mr Conte to continue, albeit with a small party Mr Renzi has had more leverage. Whatever the outcome, the tussle suggests that Italy’s shocking political stability during the pandemic is coming to an end.

Mr. Conte, a little-known law professor who was elected to lead two rickety coalition governments in 2018 and 2019, has been an unexpectedly powerful prime minister since last year, when Italy became the first Western country hardest hit by Covid-19. His approval ratings rose as he worked with allies and opposition parties to arrange for the first nationwide lockdown, using stringent measures that were soon adopted around the world.


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More Wine Tariffs Applied in France and Germany by the US | Instant News

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration has said it will target more French and German wines and spirits at 25% tariffs starting January 12, in the latest escalation in a tit-for-tat tariff war related to a long-running dispute over subsidies for commercial jet airliners.

Among the new levies, the US will for the first time impose a 25% levy on wine from France and Germany in excess of the 14% alcohol it had previously exempted, according to the Office of the US Trade Representative.

The US has seen this surge in high alcoholic wines, typically from Spain and France, after wine with alcohol of 14% or less the tariff is charged last year.

“Especially with what is happening in light of the pandemic, with the closure of restaurants and refineries, this is not the right time to enter an industry that is already facing economic impact,” Christine LoCascio, head of public policy for the US Council’s Distilled Spirits, said Thursday.

Washington imposed a 25% tariff on wines from France, Spain, Germany and the UK in October 2019 in retaliation for subsidies they made to European aircraft manufacturers.


SE, arguing they were hurt

Boeing Together.

Other items that will be subject to the new tariffs are premium cognacs priced at $ 38 per liter and up, and some aircraft-building parts, both from France and Germany. High alcoholic wines from Spain and England are not added to the latest list.

USTR said in its regulatory filing that the additional tariffs targeted products from France and Germany because the two countries had provided the largest levels of subsidies that were incompatible with WTO rules.

The US and EU have long been at odds over what each claims are unfair government subsidies to commercial aircraft manufacturers: Airbus in Europe and Boeing in the US

A battle has recently occurred over tit-for-tat tariffs on consumer products.

“These tariffs are destroying US restaurants and small businesses at the worst of times.”

– Ben Aneff, US Wine Trade Alliance

In October 2019, the US imposed tariffs on $ 7.5 billion worth of products for wine, cheese and other products from Europe. In retaliation, the European Union announced tariffs last month on $ 4 billion worth of US products, including Boeing jets, alcoholic beverages, and tobacco.

USTR said Wednesday in a press release that the latest additions to its tariff list came as the US made adjustments after the two sides used different reference periods for trade data to determine which products the tariffs would cover.

USTR said that while the US used data for the previous calendar year, the EU was using a period in which trade was drastically reduced due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

That allows Europe to impose tariffs on “substantially more product” than it could do under the calendar year method, the USTR said. After the EU refused to change its approach, USTR said it decided to change its own reference period and add more products. The additions will not change the total value of the $ 7.5 billion worth of products subject to tariffs, USTR said.

An EU spokesman said the choice of reference period for EU tariff measures was based on the latest available trade data in line with long-standing WTO practices. The spokesman said Washington was “unilaterally disrupting” ongoing bilateral negotiations to find a resolution to the plane dispute.

“The European Union will engage with the new US administration as soon as possible to continue these negotiations and find a lasting solution to the dispute,” he said.

The escalation in the tariff fight highlights challenges in trade relations between the US and the EU, even as European officials call for improving ties under the upcoming administration. The digital tax imposed on US technology companies by France has been a significant cause of tension. European Union signing of an investment agreement with China This week has attracted attention among US trade officials as they seek European cooperation against China.

The tariff impact is very significant. Wine imports from France fell 54% in the first five months of 2020 from a year earlier, while those from Germany fell 42%, according to the US Wine Trade Alliance.

“These tariffs are destroying US restaurants and small businesses at the worst of times,” Ben Aneff, group president. “This underscores how important it is for President-elect Biden to immediately lift restaurant tariffs, and find ways to more effectively influence the EU while reducing damage to businesses at home.”

Write to Yuka Hayashi on [email protected]

Copyright © 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


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Biden’s Choice for USDA Throws Tom Vilsack Back In Food Policy Battle | Instant News

presidential election

Joe BidenThis week’s selection from former US Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to head of the agency once again knocked known Agriculture Belt policymakers to lead a department critical to helping farmers and starving Americans survive the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Vilsack led the USDA through President Barack Obama’s two terms and has a fascination with agriculture and food constituents. He also has an established relationship with Mr Biden, establishing Mr Vilsack as a veteran agricultural official who, if confirmed, could immediately take over the sprawling body, according to a transition spokesman.

Mr Vilsack’s choice drew praise and criticism from agriculture and food security groups, signaling the battle ahead for the agency as it guides farmers and consumers get out of the pandemic.

“The challenges are astounding,” said Andrew Novaković, a Cornell University emeritus professor of agricultural economics who worked for the USDA during Mr’s tenure. Vilsack.

Joe Biden appears in Newton, Iowa, with Tom Vilsack, who served as state governor for eight years, during campaign events in January.


fresh mike / Reuters

The USDA, with a 2020 budget of around $ 153 billion, leads nearly every aspect of the country’s food production. It regulates genetically modified seeds, guarantees farmers’ crops, promotes agricultural exports and inspects slaughterhouses.

The USDA also oversees the way Americans eat, helps set US dietary guidelines and administers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, previously administered through food stamps. Biden is facing pressure from some consumer groups to elect someone with a focus on food aid after the pandemic sent US unemployment to the highest level since World War II and the family gathered at the food bank across the country.


What should the priority of the Department of Agriculture under Tom Vilsack? Join the conversation below.

“Secretary Vilsack’s proven track record of prioritizing federal nutrition programs and supporting US farmers and producers will be critical in helping today’s injured communities,” said Claire Babineaux-Fontenot, chief executive of the hunger aid organization Feeding America. Mr. Vilsack serves on the board of directors of his national office following his tenure with the USDA.

However, the farmer and workers organization Family Farm Action says Mr Vilsack has a record of serving large agricultural and food companies, raising questions about how he will give priority to struggling communities.

Vilsack is committed to promoting equality and inclusion across all agency missions, said transition spokesman Biden.

Since early 2017 Mr Vilsack has been the chief executive of the US Dairy Exports Council, a farmer-funded group. Returning to the USDA would make Mr Vilsack the second longest-serving secretary in agency history.

Mr. Vilsack, 69, was born in an orphanage and adopted in 1951. A native of Pittsburgh, he practices law in Mount Pleasant, Iowa and serves as mayor of the city and in the Iowa state senate. Mr. Vilsack then served as governor of Iowa for eight years, resigning in 2007.

As secretary, Mr Vilsack will face the task of shoring up the US agricultural sector. When he left the USDA in early 2017, the US agricultural economy is in decline, with farm net income down 40% from a record high four years earlier as consecutive crops swelled supply and lowered prices.

Since then, agricultural markets have taken a hit during President Trump’s trade battles with China, Mexico and Canada, leading the Trump administration to increase government payments to farmers to historical highs.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack visited a biofuel farm in Urbana, Illinois, in 2015.


John Dixon / Associated Press

In a September interview, Vilsack said the US agriculture sector’s current reliance on government assistance to tackle disruptions from the trade dispute and the Covid-19 pandemic shows the need for new policies that support a tougher agricultural sector.

“I think most farmers don’t want government payments,” said Mr Vilsack, who was then Biden’s campaign adviser.

Mr Novaković, professor emeritus, said the USDA often does not have direct control over policy decisions that touch on some of the most difficult topics facing agriculture, such as trade, labor and climate change. “This is where a personal relationship with Joe Biden can be very helpful,” he said.

Mr Vilsack said in September that under the Biden administration, the USDA could regulate regional food supply markets and direct federal incentives to farmers who adopt climate-friendly practices.

Farmer groups representing corn and soybean producers as well as meat packers and organic farmers welcomed Mr. Vilsack’s choice. They said previous leadership at the agency would help farmers cope with the pandemic.

Groups representing minority farmers and food chain workers say they worry how much Mr Vilsack will do to advance their cause, pointing to past criticism of body treatment of minority groups.

A Biden transition spokesman said Mr Vilsack during his tenure at the USDA increased lending to disadvantaged farmers, and was committed to recognizing and eliminating discriminatory practices.

John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, which campaigns for Mr. Biden and works with his transition team, said, “I want someone new.”

Write to Jesse Newman at [email protected] and Jacob Bunge at [email protected]

Copyright © 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8


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