Before an international pandemic wrought havoc on the spirits and bar industry, a trade war initiated by President Trump put the wheels in motion. On Tuesday (7.21), the Distilled Spirits Council U.S. (DiSCUS) issued a call for the public to issue formal opposition to the current alcohol tariffs before the open comment period closes on Sunday (7.26).
The United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) is currently soliciting the input as part of the legal process required to extend and increase the current tariffs. Imposed in October 2019, the Since October 18, 2019, the measures placed 25% tariff on imports of Single Malt Scotch Whisky; Single Malt Irish Whiskey from Northern Ireland; as well as liqueurs and cordials from Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom.
The USTR’s proposal calls for new tariffs 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. These new taxes not the table range from 25 to 100%
By law, the law, the USTR must allow the public to weigh in on the measures; however, by law, the USTR is free to ignore public opinion when making their final decision. DiSSCUS set up a site to facilitate the process for the opposition. You can find that here.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
The existing tariffs as well as the EU’s retaliatory measures have been devastating to the U.S. spirits business. DiSCCUS cited some harsh numbers to illustrate the point.
“U.S. imports of Scotch and Irish Whiskey are down by nearly 33 percent between October 2019 and May 2020 ($723 million) compared to October 2018 through May 2019 ($1.01 billion). U.S. imports of liqueurs and cordials from Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom are down by approximately 23 percent between October 2019 and May 2020 ($288 million) compared to October 2018 through May 2019 ($372 million).”