Chickens have been a part of human diets for centuries. As populations have grown, so has the demand for food. During the 1960s, as globalization increased post-World War II, European farmers grew concerned about American chicken imports. With the increased supply of American chickens in Europe, European farmers were worried about being priced out of the chicken market. For them, cheap chicken from across the Atlantic Ocean was a threat.
Concerned with the growing market share of American poultry, the European Economic Community (EEC) (the EEC was later absorbed into the European Union) came together to form a common policy on agriculture. The new common policy was then used to create a universal tariff on imported chickens. The primary goal of these new regulations was to curb American chicken imports. By some accounts, this new tariff resulted in losses in American poultry exports amounting to $26 million in trades with West Germany alone.
The response from the U.S. was mixed, but farmers were upset at the prospect of losing a significant portion of their customers. The United States attempted to reach a resolution through consultations with the EEC, but these negotiations soon failed, and the U.S. soon instituted retaliatory tariffs.
In a 1963 proclamation, President Johnson and his administration established tariffs targeting key exports from European markets, including potato starch, brandy, and certain automobiles. Supporters of the U.S. tariffs argued that these tariffs were necessary to equalize the imbalance created by European tariffs, thereby making them permissible under international trade agreements.
Since the 1960s, the U.S. and European Union have reached common ground, and most of these tariffs have expired. The tariffs that continue to exist today primarily affect light truck imports into the U.S. Although these tariffs are no longer related to poultry, they are still referred to as the “chicken tax.”
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