US imports of French wine have plummeted since President Donald Trump imposed 25 percent tariffs on a range of European delicacies in a battle over subsidies to planemaker Airbus, officials said Friday.

Deputy Foreign Minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said exports dropped 44 percent by value in November from the previous month, after the import penalty took effect on October 18.

He called it a "shock" for growers, adding that France has asked the European Union to provide compensation for their losses. "We hope to have their response in the coming weeks or months," he said.

Lemoyne, who was presenting France's trade numbers for 2019, did not provide overall figures for wine exports.

But US Census Bureau data last month showed that American imports of French wines plunged to just $57.1 million (51.8 million euros) in November from $130 million the month before, when the tariffs began to bite.

Imports fell again in December, to $55.7 million, according to the data compiled by the American Association of Wine Economists.

The trade battle will be at the top of the agenda as winemakers and marketers gather for the Vinexpo trade fair that opens in Paris on Monday.

The US has imposed a 25 percent tariff on French wine imports since October 18.
The US has imposed a 25 percent tariff on French wine imports since October 18. AFP / Olivier Douliery

The US is the second-biggest export market for French wines, after Germany and ahead of Britain and China.

"Everyone is doing their part to offset the import penalty -- producers, merchants and importers are all cutting their margins so that American clients don't see a price increase of more than five percent," said Gilles Fevre, a producer in the Chablis region of Burgundy.

He has already set up 15 meetings at Vinexpo to explore export options, he told AFP ahead of the event, saying "We can't rest on our laurels."

The tariffs have been especially painful to producers at the lower ends of the market, where a 25 percent price hike can turn an affordable bottle into a once-in-a-while luxury.

In total, the tariffs target $7.5 billion worth of goods including Spanish wines and olive oil, Irish and Scottish whiskies, German industrial tools, British cashmere and a wide range of European cheeses.

They were imposed after the World Trade Organization faulted the EU for failing to remove illegal subsidies for pan-European aerospace group Airbus, whose main rival is the US giant Boeing.

Trump has threatened to hike wine tariffs even further unless there is a deal on a digital tax which European nations want to impose on American giants such as Amazon and Facebook.

Last month, France suspended its own digital tax after agreeing on further talks with the US to establish a global framework among members of the OECD group of free-market democracies.