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Tariff Woes Deepen For American Whiskey Exports

March 21, 2019

The trade tensions that have been hampering American whiskey’s growth abroad accelerated toward the end of last year. Last month, the Distilled Spirits Council released export figures from July-November documenting an 8.2% year-on-year decline for American whiskey exports, following the introduction of tariffs in key countries in retaliation for U.S. levies on steel and aluminum. Now, the Council has released data for the full July-December period, which shows that American whiskey export shipments fell 11%, with the rate of decrease accelerating in December.

In the first half of 2018, ahead of the tariffs taking effect in key markets like the E.U., Mexico, and Canada, U.S. whiskey exports jumped 28% to $595 million year-on-year. In the second half, when shipments are typically significantly higher than in the first half, exports registered at just $593 million. The E.U., which accounts for nearly 60% of U.S. shipments, posted a 13% decline in the second half compared with the year-earlier period.

“With the full year data in hand it is clear that the retaliatory tariffs are having a significant and growing impact on American whiskey exports, which had been a bright spot for U.S. agriculture exports,” said Distilled Spirits Council President and CEO Chris Swonger. “The damage to American whiskey exports is now accelerating, and this is collateral damage from ongoing global trade disputes.” He urged U.S. policy makers and trading partners to address the tariff issue before more damage is done.—Daniel Marsteller

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