U.S. Senators Urge Biden Administration to Fight Whiskey Tariffs


December 6, 2023

Rickhouse filled barrels Kentucky

U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Todd Young (R-Ind.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote a letter to the Biden Administration urging it to act quickly to help protect American whiskey and spirits producers from tariffs.

Without urgent action, the senators argue, the European Union (EU) will implement a 50% tariff on American whiskey imports starting January 1, 2024, and American wine and other distilled spirits imports could see sharp tariff increases by 2026.

Retaliatory tariffs by the EU have cost domestic spirits distillers and winemakers billions of dollars since 2018, and the U.S. needs a permanent solution to safeguard over 1.7 million production, distribution, and hospitality jobs that rely on the industry, the senators assert. The spirits industry supports over 19,000 jobs and over $1.6 billion in economic activity in the state of Nevada alone. The senators’ bipartisan letter urges U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to negotiate a deal to permanently remove retaliatory tariffs on all American-made sprits and wines.

“We write today to request an expedited agreement with the European Union (EU) to secure the permanent removal of retaliatory tariffs on spirits and wines,” the senators wrote. “We are deeply concerned that a lack of a permanent solution risks the re-imposition of tariffs.”

“Spirits have had a significant cultural impact in our country, and currently have a profound impact on the U.S. economy. In 2022 alone, U.S. distilled spirit exports reached $2.06 billion. But the impact of the retaliatory tariffs was devastating. Our belief is that the imposition of additional tariffs on this industry is detrimental,” the senators concluded. “There are mutual benefits in finding a path forward, and our belief is that spirits and wines are a point where there can be consensus to limit the damage for all parties.”

“We thank these Senators for working to protect American jobs by calling on the Administration to quickly reach an agreement with the EU to avoid a 50 percent tariff on American Whiskey exports,” said Distilled Spirits Council President & CEO Chris Swonger in a statement. “American Whiskey has rebounded in the EU market over the past two years with these tariffs currently suspended. A return of these debilitating tariffs would be a severe blow to U.S. distillers and bring this positive momentum to a screeching halt.”

The letter was also signed by Senators Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Katie Britt (R-Ala.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and John Cornyn (R-Texas).

The full text of the letter can be found here.