The bar industry is filled with internal politics, but at Bar Convent Berlin (BCB) on Tuesday (10.09), international politics came into play. Richard Grenell, the American ambassador to Germany, paid a surprise visit to the trade show and toured the American distillers exhibiting. Between stops, the diplomat threw a few jabs in the ongoing trade dispute between the United States (US) and the European Union (EU), labeling the Europeans as “too slow” and not serious in the negotiations.
In a conversation with American reporters at BCB, Ambassador Grenell began with the requisite praise for the country’s spirits. “The US has incredible gins, incredible whiskeys; and we have a great history of that. I think people know the brands, they know the creativity, they know the fact that we have incredible entrepreneurs who are willing to do fusions,” he said. “The U.S. has always been the home of entrepreneurs and creative types and I think that permeates right into the food and beverage market as well.”
However, the discussion quickly turned to the ongoing trade skirmishes between Europe and the States. “We’ve been pushing for a very long time trying to get tariff and trade barriers down,” declared the ambassador.
The statement was directed at a current European tax on US spirits. In June, the EU responded to US tariffs on steel and aluminum by placing retaliatory tariffs on some $3.3 billion worth of American goods. Included in the list of taxed items was a 25% tariff on American whiskey representing $667 million worth of liquid exports exports according to the Distilled Spirits Council.
Ambassador Grenell fingered Europe for the dispute. “President Trump has been very clear about getting tariffs down to zero, but we’ve been sitting for all of August and half of September waiting for more action from Brussels on how serious they want to be on trade and talk negotiations,” he stated. “And, frankly, they’re too slow for us. They don’t seem to be a priority.”
European Commission (EC) spokesperson Daniel Rosario told Neat Pour that the EC does not comment on comments. However, in the ensuing email Rosario questioned Grenell’s assertion that the Commission is not serious about negotiations.
Rosario pointed to a joint statement issued by the EC and US after a July 25th meeting between EC President Jean-Claude Juncker and President Trump. The statement promised, “first of all, to work together toward zero tariffs, zero non-tariff barriers, and zero subsidies on non-auto industrial goods.”
The EC rep also rebutted the notion that Brussels has taken no action over the last two months, noting that Commissioner Malmström and the United States Trade Representative met twice in September and are slated meet again in November. “Other expert level meetings will take place in the meantime,” according Rosario.
The response highlighting action contradicted the tone and narrative offered by Grenell. “We’re going to continue to push, continue to say that the goal is to get us as close to zero, possibly zero,” the Ambassador told press. “We’re going to keep pushing that message and hopefully the leaders in Brussels will understand that they’ve got to come to the table and start talking about how to get those trade barriers lower.”