DISCUS Asks Distillers, Farmers, Bartenders Consumers to ‘Take Action’ as Tariff Deadline Nears

 In Blog

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is responsible for developing and coordinating U.S. international trade, commodity, and direct investment policy, and overseeing negotiations with other countries. Today, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States – DISCUS issued an industry-wide call to action as the USTR public input period on proposed new tariffs on spirits from the European Union (EU) comes to a close this Sunday. More than 2,000 comments opposing the proposed tariffs on EU spirits have been submitted so far through DISCUS’ Spirits United grassroots platform.

Since October 18, 2019, the U.S. has imposed a 25% tariff on imports of Single Malt Scotch Whisky; Single Malt Irish Whiskey from Northern Ireland; and liqueurs and cordials from Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. The USTR’s proposed expansion of tariffs includes Scotch Whisky, Irish Whiskey, other whiskeys and grape brandy (from all EU members), vodka and gin from the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Spain, and liqueurs and cordials from all other EU members not currently facing tariffs. Tariffs on these spirits could be increased up to 100%.

Submit Comments by Sunday, July 26, 2020

Distilled Spirits Council - CEO Chris Swonger

Distilled Spirits Council CEO Chris Swonger.

“We are urging everyone connected to the U.S. and EU spirits industries, from bartenders to farmers to adult consumers, to tell USTR that these tariffs are costing hospitality industry jobs and must be eliminated,” said Chris Swonger, DISCUS President and CEO. “Returning to zero tariffs on distilled spirits products is critical, especially during this difficult time. On both sides of the Atlantic, hospitality businesses are facing severe economic hardships due to COVID-19, and these unnecessary tariffs are exacerbating the problem. U.S. and EU leaders need to come together quickly to eliminate these tariffs on distilled spirits, which would provide a much-needed boost to our collective industries and our economies.”

Comments to USTR are due by Sunday, July 26, and can be easily submitted through Spirits United’s #ToastsNotTariffs campaign form here.

According to the latest data U.S. imports of Scotch and Irish Whiskey are down by nearly 33%. Similarly U.S. imports of liqueurs and cordials from Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom are down by approximately 23%. Here’s a breakdown of the data over the last two years.

U.S. imports of Scotch and Irish Whiskey

Date Range Sales % Change
October 2018 – May 2019 $1.01 billion -
October 2019 – May 2020 $723 million -33%

U.S. imports of liqueurs and cordials from Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the UK

Date Sales % Change
October 2018 – May 2019 $372 million -
October 2019 – May 2020 $288 million -23%

Since June 22, 2018, the EU has imposed a retaliatory tariff of 25% on all U.S. Whiskey imports. According to DISCUS analysis, American Whiskey exports to the EU have tumbled by 33% and cost $300 million since the EU’s 25% retaliatory tariff went into effect. The EU has stated it may impose retaliatory tariffs this spring on U.S. rum, vodka and brandy in its parallel case at the World Trade Organization concerning Boeing. In addition, the EU is scheduled to increase its retaliatory tariff on American Whiskey to 50% in spring 2021.

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