Industry group blames tariffs for 27 percent drop in whiskey exports to EU

Industry group blames tariffs for 27 percent drop in whiskey exports to EU
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The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) announced that American whiskey exports to the European Union decreased by 27 percent in 2019 due to retaliatory tariffs.

The EU is the U.S. spirit industry’s largest export market. Globally, exports of American whiskey decreased by 16 percent in 2019, the group said on Wednesday.

“Of course we continue to be very, very concerned with some of the challenges associated with the international trade environment and tariffs,” DISCUS President and CEO Chris Swonger said on a call with reporters.


Exports of U.S. spirits to the United Kingdom declined by just under 33 percent, by just under 20 percent to France, 18 percent to Germany and were down 44 percent to Spain.

“While it was another strong year for U.S. spirits sales, the tariffs imposed by the European Union are causing a significant slump in American Whiskey exports,” Swonger said in a statement. “The data is clear. These tariffs are chipping away at American Whiskey’s brand equity in our top export markets. These great American Whiskey products that have been the toast of the global cocktail scene are struggling under the weight of the EU tariffs.”

The U.S. and Europe have traded a series of tariffs under President TrumpDonald TrumpNorth Carolina Senate passes trio of election measures 14 Republicans vote against making Juneteenth a federal holiday Border state governors rebel against Biden's immigration chaos MORE. But the president has also secured trade deals with other countries in recent months.

Christine LoCascio, the group's chief of public policy, noted to reporters that the passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement was positive for the industry because it preserved the tariff-free trade for spirits. She also said that "phase one" of a trade deal with China is another boost for the industry.

Overall, Swonger said that U.S. revenue grew for the distilled spirits industry by 5.3 percent in 2019, which marks the industry’s 10th straight year of market share gains for spirits overall.

Additionally, DISCUS launched a grassroots platform, Spirits United, in August to organize advocates on key policy initiatives.

“Today, we have well over 17,000 advocates that have joined Spirits United to make sure that this industry’s voice is heard with policy makers,” Swonger said.