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EU extends American whiskey tariff suspension

A new agreement will push the deadline for a resolution back by 15 months to March 2025.

Whiskey glass on a US flag
The EU has agreed to extend its American whiskey tariff suspension until 31 March 2025

American whiskey makers can breathe a sigh of relief as it was announced this week that the EU has extended its American whiskey tariff suspension. 

In January 2022, the EU placed a two-year suspension on its 25% tariff on American whiskey imports. Had an agreement not been reached by 1 January 2024, the tariffs were to be reinstated and doubled. The new deadline is 31 March 2025.

“We greatly appreciate the efforts of the Biden administration to secure an extended suspension of the EU’s retaliatory tariffs on American whiskeys,” Chris Swonger, president and CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (Discus) said. “This agreement is welcome news for US distillers across the country.”

In early November, Swonger said he felt exasperated, exhausted, and anxious to once again be advocating against the tariffs, which stem from Trump administration trade disputes over steel and aluminium. At the time, Swonger said Discus was in constant communication with the Biden administration, and that addressing the tariffs, which present a significant obstacle for smaller brands looking to expand their international reach, remained a top priority.

Following the 2022 suspension, American whiskey exports to the EU increased by 29% compared with the previous year, reaching US$556 million. This accounted for 44% of all American whiskey exports. Through October 2023, American whiskey exports to the EU were up by nearly 64% compared with the same period (January to October) in 2022. When the tariffs were imposed, from 2018 to 2021, American whiskey exports to the EU dropped by 20%, from US$552m to US$440 million.

“We urge the Biden administration to continue striving for a permanent end to all debilitating tariffs in disputes unrelated to the spirits sector,” Swonger added. “Until the threat of these tariffs returning is fully removed, the uncertainty will continue to restrict American Whiskey export growth in our most important international market.”

In October, Discus moved into new Capitol Hill offices in Washington, DC, which Swonger said will allow the trade body to better lobby on behalf of the spirits industry. While the extended suspension relieves some anxiety for the American whiskey industry, it is not the concrete resolution that many were hoping for.

“We strongly urge EU and U.S. officials to permanently end the tariffs sooner than later,” Eric Gregory, Kentucky Distillers Association president, said. “Our signature industry has worked hard to recover and regain footing from the last short-term suspension of tariffs.

“As Bourbon takes years of ageing to perfect, a permanent solution will bring certainty to our distillers as they look to continued growth and investments in international markets.” 

For craft brands like Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania rye whiskey, even the prospect of a tariff reimposition made them less attractive to European distributors, with founder and distiller Herman Mihalich saying that he was taking a “wait-and-see” approach.

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