Trade war could devastate whiskey industry

A trade war between the EU and the US could devastate the Irish whiskey industry.

If the current temporary exclusion of EU steel and aluminium from US tariffs expires on 1st of June, the EU has threatened to impose 25% tariffs on certain US products, including bourbon and whiskey. These tariffs could come into effect as early as the 20th June and if they do, the US may respond in kind and impose similar tariffs on equivalent European products.

For Irish whiskey, the consequences would be profound: approximately half of all Irish whiskey is sold in the US, 59% of Irish whiskey exports by value, according to the CSO.

The Irish Whiskey Association, the body representing Ireland’s rapidly-expanding network of distillers made the comments following a gathering of the all-island Irish whiskey industry at Bushmills Distillery in Co Antrim.

“Our industry develops and manufactures products for the fastest-growing spirits market in the world—Irish whiskey,” said IWA Head William Lavelle afterward, “While we’re committed to diversifying and securing growth in more markets, the fact is that the United States is of critical importance to us and will remain so well into the future.

“If the EU imposes tariffs on American bourbon and whiskey, Washington may respond in kind and impose tariffs on European whiskey exports, including Irish whiskey. Obviously this would have serious negative consequences for us, especially for the smaller, independent distilleries that have opened up in recent years.

“Higher costs of trade and a reluctance among American businesses and consumers to buy more expensive Irish whiskey, will hamper growth and potentially put many Irish distilleries into financial jeopardy.”

He urged the EU to continue continue negotiating a peaceful solution to the tariff problem “… and to avoid at all costs forcing small businesses in Ireland and around Europe into extremely difficult circumstances”.



Sign Up for Drinks Industry Ireland

Get a free weekly update on Drinks Industry trade news, direct to your inbox. Sign up now, it's free