Tuesday 16 July 2019

No spirit of compromise: Trump's tariff threat adding Irish whiskey to the jar

Whiskey chaser: Previous Trump tariff threat put heat on Irish butter exports, too
Whiskey chaser: Previous Trump tariff threat put heat on Irish butter exports, too

Shawn Pogatchnik

The Trump administration is threatening to slap $4bn (€3.54bn) in tariffs on an expanded list of EU goods - and Ireland's lucrative exports of whiskey would feel the burn.

In the early hours of yesterday, the Office of the US Trade Representative identified nearly 100 more categories of European products that could face tariffs if the EU doesn't meet US trade demands. The hit-list included "Irish and Scotch whiskies".

Irish industry leaders warned yesterday that Mr Trump's threat, if turned from bluster to reality, would do economic damage on both sides of the Atlantic.

Denise Murphy, sector manager of alcohol beverage at Bord Bia, said Ireland's whiskey sales to the USA was "valuable business" accounting for 43pc of Ireland's global whiskey exports.

"The application of tariffs, if approved, will obviously have a negative impact on that business," she said.

The Irish Whiskey Association said imposing tariffs on whiskey would "harm distillers and businesses both in Ireland and in the US. Any tariffs imposed on Irish whiskey entering the US market will negatively impact investment and employment in both jurisdictions".

On the rocks: French leader Emmanuel Macron whispers to US President Donald Trump at last week’s G20 summit. AP Photo/Susan Walsh
On the rocks: French leader Emmanuel Macron whispers to US President Donald Trump at last week’s G20 summit. AP Photo/Susan Walsh

The association, which represents two dozen distilleries across Ireland, said it would submit "detailed comments" to US trade authorities in hopes of keeping whiskey flowing freely to America.

"We urge both sides to continue to strive to achieve a mutually acceptable solution to this issue and to avoid imposing barriers to trade which will ultimately adversely impact businesses and consumers on both sides of the Atlantic," it said.

At stake is the previously unassailable growth of whiskey exports to Ireland's biggest market for the spirit.

Bord Bia says whiskey represented 60pc of the €567m in beverage exports last year to the US, where Irish whiskey sales grew by 9pc to €340m.

The latest threat has increased the length of an already extensive list of targeted EU exports.

In April, the Trump administration warned it could impose up to $21bn (€18.6bn) in tariffs on select EU imports. That list included butter, an Irish export worth €161m in 2018 - principally reflecting an appetite for Kerrygold.

Neither of this year's warnings comes with fixed dates when tariffs might take effect. The US did impose a 25pc tariff on European steel and 10pc on its aluminium imports in May 2018.

Joining whiskey on the shelf of newly threatened EU products are hams and other pork goods; coffee, fruits and juices; dairy spreads and milk-based fats and oils; Italian, Gruyère, Edam and Gouda cheeses; olives; pasta; and waffles and wafers.

Irish Independent

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