“After three very difficult years of sagging American whiskey exports, the EU and the U.S. are back to a zero-for-zero tariff agreement on distilled spirits, which has been instrumental to our export success and job creation on both sides of the Atlantic since 1997,” Chris Swonger, president and CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS), stated in a press release.
The trade dispute dates back to June 2018, when the Trump administration imposed 25 percent tariffs on all imported aluminum and steel products from the EU, Mexico, and Canada. While not necessarily a “war” on the alcohol beverage sector, America’s producers suffered as a result. In response to the levies, the EU and Canada retaliated with 25 percent tariffs on American whiskey.
The impact of the sanctions proved significant on both sides of the Atlantic. Between 2018 and 2020, exports of American whiskey to the EU dropped 37 percent, from $702 million to $440 million, according to DISCUS. Industry members are hoping there will now be a quick reversal of that trend.
“With the removal of these EU tariffs, we are energized and ready to ramp up our American whiskey promotions in the EU to re-introduce America’s native spirits to EU consumers and resume a great American export success story,” Swonger stated.
Amid the excitement, there are still ways to go. The 25 percent tariff on American whiskey remains in place in the U.K., which was part of the EU when the initial tariff was imposed but has since ceased to be a member state.
American distillers may feel particularly unfairly treated in this respect. In March 2021, the U.S. temporarily suspended a separate, unrelated 25 percent tariff on Scotch whisky imports. Later in June, when the provision was set to expire, the Biden administration extended the suspension for five years.
“The end of this long tariff nightmare is in sight for U.S. distillers, who have struggled with the weight of the tariffs and the pandemic,” Swonger stated. “It’s time for the U.K. to lift its tariff on American whiskeys so we can all get back to toasts, not tariffs.”