Wednesday 21 March 2018

Taoiseach fears US will target Irish whiskey if trade war breaks out across the Atlantic

Leo Varadkar meets Arnold Schwarzenegger in Austin, Texas, during his visit to the United
Leo Varadkar meets Arnold Schwarzenegger in Austin, Texas, during his visit to the United States
Mr Varadkar shows off the belt buckle given to him by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he is concerned Irish whiskey could be targeted as part of the escalating trade war between the US and the EU.

Speaking on the first day of his week-long visit to the US, Mr Varadkar said when he hears the EU threaten to put import tariffs on US bourbon, it concerns him that Irish whiskey could also be hit with tariffs.

"When I hear bourbon whiskey I think the next response could be tariffs against Irish whiskey," he said.

Speaking at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, Mr Varadkar warned that a cross-Atlantic trade war would be "bad for everyone".

During his visit to the festival, the Taoiseach met former Californian Governor and Hollywood star Arnold Schwarzenegger, who invited him to visit his home town of Santa Monica.

The Taoiseach told the 'Terminator' star "I love your work" when they chatted in the corridors of the Hilton Hotel in Austin.

Meanwhile, in a wide-ranging interview with 'Texas Tribune' chief executive Evan Smith, Mr Varadkar discussed US President Donald Trump's administration and a raft of domestic issues in Ireland.

Asked for his view of Mr Trump, the Taoiseach said "he's definitely not a career politician", adding that this was one of the reasons he was elected as president.

On Vice-President Mike Pence's stance on marriage equality, Mr Varadkar said he always saw the US as a "beacon of freedom", but added it is "really tough" to see that America is no longer a "world leader" on gay rights.

He said he thinks the majority of American people agree with him on marriage equality "even if the administration doesn't".

The Taoiseach said he intended to raise LGBT rights with Mr Pence when they meet on Friday.

On the issue of migration, Mr Varadkar said he would not comment on US policy, but he got a round of applause when he said 17pc of people living in Ireland were not born there and "we are all the better for it".

Today he travels to Oklahoma where he will meet the Choctaw Nation and pay tribute for their relief efforts during the Great Famine. The tribe collected $170 - equal to several thousand dollars today - for famine relief in Ireland.

Irish Independent

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