DISCUS Issues Urgent “Call to Action” as U.S. Tariff Comment Deadline Nears

Grassroots effort has already garnered more than 2,000 comments  

The Distilled Spirits of the United States (DISCUS) today issued an industry-wide call to action as the United States Trade Representative’s (USTR) public input period on proposed new tariffs on spirits from the European Union (EU) comes to a close this Sunday. More than 2,000 comments opposing the proposed tariffs on EU spirits have been submitted so far through DISCUS’ Spirits United grassroots platform.

“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. “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.”

Comments to USTR are due by Sunday, July 26, and can be easily submitted through Spirits United’s #ToastsNotTariffs campaign.

Since October 18, 2019, the U.S. has imposed a 25 percent tariff on imports of Single Malt Scotch Whisky; Single Malt Irish Whiskey from Northern Ireland; and liqueurs and cordials from Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom. The USTR’s proposed expansion of tariffs includes 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 not currently facing tariffs. Tariffs on these spirits could be increased up to 100 percent.

According to the latest data available, 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).

Since June 22, 2018, the EU has imposed a retaliatory tariff of 25 percent on all U.S. Whiskey imports. According to DISCUS analysis, American Whiskey exports to the EU have tumbled by 33 percent and cost $300 million since the EU’s 25 percent retaliatory tariff went into effect. The EU has stated it may impose retaliatory tariffs this spring on U.S. rum, vodka and brandy in its parallel case at the World Trade Organization concerning Boeing. In addition, the EU is scheduled to increase its retaliatory tariff on American Whiskey to 50 percent in spring 2021.

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