US spirits exports to Europe set to rebound following lifting of retaliatory tariffs

EUROPE – Export of whiskey and bourbon products to the European Union by US distillers is set to rebound following a decision by the European Commission to lift retaliatory tariffs on spirits after three years.  

The result will be a ‘significant boost’ to transatlantic trade which had been badly battered by the retaliatory tariffs, as well as helping distillers, farmers, and the wider restaurant and bar trade.  

The US spirit industry found itself in the middle of a trade dispute between the US government and the EU over steel and aluminum exports.  

The US under the Trump administration placed taxes on EU steel and aluminum in 2018 n the claim that the foreign products produced by American allies were a threat to U.S. national security.  

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Europeans and other allies were outraged by Trump’s use of Article 232 to justify the tariffs, leading many to impose counter-tariffs on U.S.-made motorcycles, bourbon, peanut butter, and jeans, among other items. 

The introduction of the tariffs ended a 20-year golden era for the spirits sector where tariff-free transatlantic trade led to a growth in transatlantic spirits of more than 450%.  

Under the tariff era, industries on both sides of the Atlantic suffered with  American Whiskey exports to the EU, the US spirits industry’s largest export market, plunging 37% from US$702m to US$440m in 2018-2020. 

The alcohol industry which has for long argued that it has been unfairly hit by tariffs relating to disputes in industries has finally been handed a sigh of relief. 

 “After three very difficult years of sagging American Whiskey exports, the EU and 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,” Distilled Spirits Council President & CEO Chris Swonger said. 

“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.”  

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With the EU lifting its retaliatory sanctions, eyes now turn to the UK where the 25 percent tariff on American whiskey remains in place. 

“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.” 

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