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Congressman John Yarmuth

Representing the 3rd Congressional District of Kentucky

Yarmuth, Barr Lead Bipartisan Call for End to Tariffs on Bourbon, Distilled Spirits

April 5, 2021
Press Release

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representatives John Yarmuth (D-KY) and Andy Barr (R-KY), Co-Chairs of the Congressional Bourbon Caucus, led a bipartisan letter calling on Katherine Tai, President Biden’s newly-confirmed U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), to work with the EU and UK to immediately suspend tariffs on American Whiskey. Yarmuth and Barr’s letter, signed by 48 of their colleagues in the House, cites the recent decline in U.S. bourbon exports and the brutal impact the tariffs have had on all distilled spirits and wine, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“These tariffs have damaged what had been a great American export success story for many years,” the Members write to Tai. “American Whiskey exports to the EU, our largest export market, grew from $502 million in 2008 to $702 million in 2018, an increase of 40 percent. Since the tariffs were imposed, our American Whiskey exports to the EU have declined by 37 percent and to the UK by 53 percent.”

Some tariffs have been temporarily suspended as the Administration works to resolve an ongoing WTO aircraft dispute, but the Members urge Tai to work with her counterparts to remove all tariffs affecting distilled spirits and wine. The current 25 percent EU and UK tariff imposed on American Whiskey, in effect since June of 2018, is currently set to double to 50 percent on June 1, 2021.

“We hope that the recent agreements to temporarily suspend tariffs that were imposed in connection to the WTO large civil aircraft subsidy dispute will lead to the prompt removal of all tariffs on U.S., EU, and UK wine and distilled spirits. The suspension of tariffs is happening at a critical time for the U.S. hospitality industry and the beverage alcohol sector. Permanently lifting the tariff burden will also support the recovery of restaurants, bars and small craft distilleries across that country that were forced to shut down their businesses during the pandemic.”

A copy of the letter can be found here, and text of the letter is below:

April 5, 2021

The Honorable Katherine Tai

United States Trade Representative

Executive Office of the President

600 17th Street, NW

Washington, D.C. 20508

Dear Ambassador Tai:

We write to express our strong support for the millions of American jobs that depend on fair and free trade between the U.S., the European Union (EU), and the United Kingdom (UK). As you know, the beverage alcohol sector supports good-paying jobs in every state, from the production, import, and wholesale tiers to the retail and hospitality sectors. The U.S. beverage alcohol industry has been negatively impacted by tariffs, which have increased prices on American consumers and hurt American businesses and employees.  

The UK and the EU continue to impose a damaging 25 percent tariff on American Whiskey. This tariff issued in June 2018, in response to U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum, is scheduled to double to 50 percent on June 1, 2021. These tariffs have damaged what had been a great American export success story for many years. American Whiskey exports to the EU, our largest export market, grew from $502 million in 2008 to $702 million in 2018, an increase of 40 percent. Since the tariffs were imposed, our American Whiskey exports to the EU have declined by 37 percent and to the UK by 53 percent. 

We hope that the recent agreements to temporarily suspend tariffs that were imposed in connection to the WTO large civil aircraft subsidy dispute will lead to the prompt removal of all tariffs on U.S., EU, and UK wine and distilled spirits. The suspension of tariffs is happening at a critical time for the U.S. hospitality industry and the beverage alcohol sector. Permanently lifting the tariff burden will also support the recovery of restaurants, bars and small craft distilleries across that country that were forced to shut down their businesses during the pandemic. 

In 2020, there were more than 2,000 craft distillers in the U.S. and American Whiskey was exported from 37 states. Craft distillers across the U.S. are suffering from these tariffs and the crushing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Forty-one percent of their sales have evaporated, and 31 percent of their employees have been furloughed since the start of the pandemic. Absent urgent action to fully suspend these tariffs, American Whiskey will remain at a serious competitive disadvantage in our two most important export markets, and we fear many craft distillers will be put out of business.

As the Biden Administration continues to work with the EU and UK on priority trade issues, we strongly urge that the Administration work with the EU and UK to secure the immediate suspension of tariffs on American Whiskey and secure agreements that result in the removal of all tariffs on U.S., EU, and UK distilled spirits and wine. The removal of these tariffs will help support U.S. jobs and U.S. consumers as the economy continues to recover. 

Thank you for your consideration.

                                                                   Sincerely,

              John Yarmuth                                                          Andy Barr

          Member of Congress                                          Member of Congress

 

 

Brett Guthrie                               Scott DesJarlais, M.D.                   Brian Fitzpatrick

Member of Congress                   Member of Congress                    Member of Congress

 

Joseph D. Morelle                        Mike Gallagher                               David Trone

Member of Congress                    Member of Congress                 Member of Congress

 

Peter Welch                                    James Comer                               Salud O. Carbajal

Member of Congress                   Member of Congress                      Member of Congress

 

Dina Titus                                 Matt Cartwright                            Robert J. Wittman

Member of Congress               Member of Congress                    Member of Congress

 

Thomas Massie                        Kathleen M. Rice                            Julia Brownley

Member of Congress                 Member of Congress                      Member of Congress

 

Tom Cole                                Jennifer Wexton                          Stacey E. Plaskett

Member of Congress              Member of Congress                    Member of Congress

 

Hal Rogers                            James P. McGovern                          Darrell Issa

Member of Congress              Member of Congress                        Member of Congress

 

C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger       Glenn “GT” Thompson                Jimmy Panetta

Member of Congress                Member of Congress                   Member of Congress

 

Mariannette Miller-Meeks        Chuck Fleischmann                       Jim Cooper

Member of Congress                  Member of Congress                  Member of Congress

 

Diana Harshbarger                 James R. Baird                                Marie Newman

Member of Congress              Member of Congress                      Member of Congress

 

Scott Franklin                       Scott Perry                                    Lucy McBath

Member of Congress           Member of Congress                    Member of Congress

 

Mark E. Green, M.D.              Tim Burchett                        Alcee L. Hastings

Member of Congress             Member of Congress                Member of Congress

 

Steve Chabot                          Greg Stanton                              Carlos A. Gimenez

Member of Congress              Member of Congress                  Member of Congress

 

Bradley S. Schneider                Gus M. Bilirakis                 Mario Diaz-Balart

Member of Congress             Member of Congress               Member of Congress

 

Antonio Delgado                     W. Gregory Steube                 Jake LaTurner

Member of Congress                Member of Congress              Member of Congress

 

Bill Pascrell, Jr.                        John Rose                              María Elvira Salazar

Member of Congress              Member of Congress                Member of Congress

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