Kentucky bourbon distillers brace for blowback from Trump tariffs
Kentucky's bourbon distilleries are bracing for potential retaliatory action following President Trump's decision Thursday to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Europe, Canada and Mexico.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky’s bourbon distilleries are bracing for potential retaliatory action following President Trump’s decision Thursday to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from Europe, Canada and Mexico.
Trump decided not to exempt the European Union, Mexico and Canada from the 25 percent and 10 percent tariffs on steel and aluminum, respectively. The levies will begin at midnight Thursday, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told reporters, according to the New York Times.
In March, the E.U. threatened to slap retaliatory levies on American products including Wisconsin-made Harley Davidson motorcycles and Kentucky bourbon – moves that appeared directly aimed House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and Senate Maj. Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky.
Much of the tremendous boom in bourbon production in the last two decades has been driven by overseas sales.
In a statement Thursday, the Kentucky Distillers Association said "free and fair trade" has "catapulted our legendary craft into an unparalleled chapter of global success."
“We remain hopeful that continued negotiations will avoid a costly trade war and protect our allies and partnerships around the world, which will continue to benefit spirits producers and consumers for years to come,” the bourbon industry trade group said.
Kentucky produces 95 percent of the world’s bourbon, an industry that employs 17,500 in the state with an annual payroll of $800 million, according to the distillers association.
The association said bourbon producers have invested or will invest $1.1 billion in recent capital projects such as new distilleries and warehouses to store aging barrels, according to the association.
McConnell, the most powerful senator in Washington, criticized Trump's move in a statement Thursday.
"The Leader has been clear that a trade war is not in the best interest of Kentucky’s economy and that there are better ways to address trade imbalances," said McConnell spokeswoman Stephanie Penn. "He’s heard from constituents across the Commonwealth on this issue and will continue to raise his concerns directly with the President and his team."