In a show of unparalleled unity in the spirits business, worldwide leaders from nine spirits associations gathered together at the Frazier History Museum in Louisville, Kentucky to make history of their own. It’s hard to believe but, this is the first time this W9 group has gotten together, ever. This unprecedented two day gathering was pulled together by the Kentucky Distillers’ Association to proactively take action and have the combined voices of the distilled spirits industry heard in Washington.
Leaders with the world’s top whiskey associations called upon global leaders to engage in timely dialogue that results in the prompt removal of recent tariffs between long-time friends and allies, particularly those imposed on spirits exports.
Kentucky Distillers’ Association President Eric Gregory said the group unanimously approved a resolution declaring open and fair trade to be essential for the future of the iconic industry – even though they couldn’t agree on who makes the best whiskey, or whether it’s spelled “whiskey” or “whisky.”
The resolution also welcomes the commitment announced yesterday by the U.S. and the EU to de-escalate the current trade dispute and address tariff issues, and calls for the removal of tariffs.
“In Kentucky, we like to say that Bourbon brings people together,” he said. “It’s actually a lesson that our legendary industry learned long ago – that we can accomplish more by working together than standing apart. The global whiskey industry has been built on centuries of friendship, partnership and kinship.”
“Today, we call on world leaders to likewise work together, over a glass of whiskey or their favorite nonalcoholic beverage. All nine members of this historic summit stand ready to assist and reach a solution.”
Watch the Complete ‘W9 Spirit of Collaboration Summit’ Briefing
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The W8 Turns Into the W9 Summit of Collaboration
If you read our initial story, this started out as the W8 but thankfully, Margie Lehrman Executive Director of the American Craft Spirits Association was added prior to the start of the meeting which turned this into the W9. What makes this country run is small business and craft distillers dot the map all over this country with numbers exceeding 1,500. And, as Lehrman points out, there’s a ripple effect to everyone of these small businesses. The big distillers could likely whether the tariff storm for a while but in the case of craft distillers, many of whom are startups, these tariffs could quite literally put them out of business.
Remember One Thing, ‘The Ripple Effect’
“If you remember anything I say today, I’d like you to remember ‘ripple.’ said Margie Lehrman Executive Director of the American Craft Spirits Association. “What does that mean? The ripple effect. Our industry impacts so much more than just the distillery and the employees at that particular distillery. Our industry goes to where we kind of all began with George Washington and his distillery, which is in the agricultural community. So if we start with agriculture and that little grain of seed and we go on from there, and the bottlers and transportation and manufacturing and the graphic artists it touches so many different levels of what we’re doing. We so welcome this conversation today. So that when I get a call from an Iowa distiller who says to me, ‘Margie, my products on a container ship, the importer just told me I’ve got to reduce my prices by at least 15% before they offload it.’ That has a substantial impact on what that business plan might look like next year.”
Who Attended the W9 Spirit of Collaboration Summit?
Participating worldwide whiskey trade associations included:
- American Craft Spirits Association
- Distilled Spirits Council of the United States – DISCUS
- Irish Whiskey & Spirits Associations
- Japan Spirits & Liqueurs Makers Association
- Kentucky Distillers’ Association
- Scotch Whisky Association
- Spirits Canada
- The Presidents’ Forum of the Distilled Spirits Industry
The gathering marked the first time these nine associations have come together to discuss collaborative solutions to recent trade policy decisions that could have long-term economic impacts on each of the country’s distilled spirits industries and negatively affect consumers worldwide.
Ulrich Adam, Director General of spiritsEUROPE, said, “Spirit drinks are appreciated around the world. Wherever local economies grow and markets open, we see a rising demand for our whiskies, vodkas, Cognacs or gins.”
“As true champion of open and fair trade, we very much value any efforts by public authorities to negotiate tariff removal and the elimination of non-tariff barriers. This helps our spirits companies, large and small, to be commercially successful abroad. The benefits are manifold and substantial – and go well beyond our sector, including our suppliers, distributors, and customers around the globe.”
Distilled Spirits Council Interim President and CEO Clarkson Hine said, “The Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. is joining with our counterpart organizations from around the world to send a strong message of support for free and fair trade of distilled spirits.
“We welcome the announcement made yesterday by the President and the EU as an important step in the right direction,” Hine said.
“U.S. whiskey exports are a great American success story, and these trade disputes threaten the global competitiveness of American-made whiskeys that create jobs throughout the entire supply chain, from farmers to distillers to the retail market and consumers.”
“We stand side-by-side with our domestic and international colleagues to urge continued dialogue that restores the tariff-free market access that has benefited producers and consumers for the past two decades.”
According to the Distilled Spirits Council, global U.S. spirits exports set a new record in 2017, reaching $1.64 billion. American whiskeys, specifically Bourbon, Tennessee Whiskey, and American Rye Whiskeys accounted for nearly 70 percent of the total, and thus are the key drivers of this export success.
Biggest Question from the Leaders – When and Where is the 2019 Meeting
Gregory praised the energy and insight each of the members brought to the two-day gathering, and said the group hopes to formalize its partnership and meet annually. “It only makes sense, as we share so many common issues, interest and opportunities.
“It was an honor to host such a distinguished group of global citizens here in Kentucky,” he said. “To welcome our extended whiskey family to the Birthplace of Bourbon in order to work together for the greater good of all is an extraordinary privilege.”
“We are all one big whiskey family; we share the same amber DNA of water, grains and oak. And whether it’s in Kentucky or one of our other legendary whiskey producing communities and countries, we look forward to our next whiskey family reunion.”
W9 Spirit of Collaboration Decree
Here’s the resolution signed by all the leaders of the W9 Summit. The complete text is included below as well.
2018 Distilled Spirits Resolution – Full Text
WHEREAS, In a spirit of camaraderie and collaboration, leaders of the world’s whiskey associations met today in Kentucky, the Birthplace of Bourbon, to discuss trade issues that threaten the growth of this iconic, international industry; and
WHEREAS, Members at this historic gathering agree that the increasing success of global whiskey exports is a prime example of the long-standing benefits of open and fair trade; and
WHEREAS, Our spirits exporters have benefited from zero-for-zero tariff access to each other’s markets for more than two decades, which has greatly benefited both distillers and consumers, resulting in increased jobs, community investment and consumer choice; and
WHEREAS, We have a long-standing record of working together with our respective governments to tackle trade barriers, improve market access and uphold the principles of the rules-based international trading system; and
WHEREAS, Recently imposed tariffs, including those on U.S. whiskeys, could greatly harm long-standing partnerships, consumers, distillery workers and industry partners, especially in agriculture, as there are no winners in a global trade war.
NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, That the leaders of the world’s whiskey associations welcome the commitment announced by the U.S. and the EU to de-escalate this trade dispute and address tariff issues; and
RESOLVED FURTHER, That world leaders build on this spirit of collaboration through timely dialogue that results in the prompt removal of recent tariffs between long-time friends and allies, particularly those on spirits exports.
ADOPTED UNANIMOUSLY this 26th day of July, 2018.