American Whiskey Distillers Praise EU Agreement to Pause Tariff Increases


May 17, 2021

The European Union said today it will postpone its plans to raise tariffs on American whiskey and other products to 50%; the increases were set to go into effect June 1. The Biden administration is in talks with the EU toward lifting U.S. steel tariffs put in place during the Trump administration.

The Kentucky Distillers’ Association released a statement praising the announcement.

“This is welcome news as distillers in Kentucky and across America were perilously close to a crippling blow on European exports,” KDA President Eric Gregory said in a news release. “This gives both sides some breathing room to return to free and fair trade and once again level the playing field for Kentucky’s signature spirit.

“We deeply appreciate the leadership the Biden Administration, Congressmen John Yarmuth and Andy Barr, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear and all global leaders who are working to resolve this ongoing trade dispute that has slashed exports and jeopardized the certainty of our largest overseas markets.”

Distilleries in 36 states exported whiskey in 2020, the KDA reported, with Kentucky ranking second behind Tennessee. Total American Whiskey exports reported a steep downturn, declining 29% from 2018 to 2020. U.S. whiskey exports to the EU fell sharply 37% in that time and sank 53% to the U.K.

The Distilled Spirits Council also released a statement praising the postponement of the tariff increases.

“This news couldn’t come soon enough,” Chris Swonger, president and CEO of the organization. “Distillers across the United States are breathing a huge sigh of relief after bracing for a 50% tariff on American Whiskeys in just a matter of days that would have forced many craft distillers out of the EU market. We recognize there is still work to be done to get EU and U.S. spirits back to zero for zero tariffs.  We greatly appreciate the Biden administration’s ongoing efforts to resolve these longstanding trade disputes and reduce the economic pain felt by those industries unfairly caught in the middle.”

In addition, the Spirits Council announced that the Florida Craft Spirits Association (FCSA) is joining the Spirits United platform as a partner member to further the success of craft spirits makers across the state and beyond.

“The Florida Craft Spirits Association represents some of the greatest spirits brands across the U.S. and around the globe, and our partnership will help protect and grow the spirits market in Florida,” Swonger said in a news release. “Currently, the distilled spirits industry provides more than 82,100 jobs and $7.7 billion in gross domestic product in Florida. Together, we will use the Spirits United platform to ensure lawmakers hear our collective voices on legislative issues that matter most to Florida distillers and keep this growth going strong.”