Gov. Matt Bevin was non-committal when asked what he thinks of President Donald Trump’s proposal to institute tariffs on foreign-made steel and aluminum.

The policy could benefit Kentucky aluminum manufacturers like Braidy Industries — the company that Bevin helped attract to the state with a package of economic incentives — and Century Aluminum, which announced it would hire 300 new workers in Hancock County if the tariff went into effect.

But the proposal has also prompted worries of a trade war. A European Union trade leader has threatened to impose tariffs on U.S.-made products like steel, cars, cranberries, orange juice, and Kentucky’s signature product — bourbon.

On Wednesday, Bevin said it was a waste of time to speculate on the effects of the potential tariffs.

“The president does this, he likes to create dialogue, get people to talk,” Bevin said at a rally headlined by Vice President Mike Pence.

“Think about this: it would be good for some and not good for others, that’s the reality of it anytime something like this is done.”

Pence was in Versailles Wednesday to promote the Republican tax cut that passed out of Congress late last year.

He also voiced support for Trump’s protectionist proposal.

“Whether it be renegotiating NAFTA or protecting our steel and aluminum industries, President Trump will always put American workers, American farmers and American companies first,” Pence said.

Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers Association, said in a statement that it’s “premature to speculate on the specific impact” of the proposal, but warned of its potential effects.

“U.S. and EU spirits exporters have enjoyed duty-free access to each other’s markets for more than two decades, which has greatly benefited both spirits producers and consumers, and has resulted in increased exports, jobs and consumer choice,” Gregory said in the statement.

“Any efforts to impose retaliatory tariffs on U.S. spirits exports to the EU will jeopardize this long-standing partnership, harm consumers through higher prices and more limited product availability, and significantly threaten the distilling renaissance that is creating industry jobs and generating billions in capital investment.”

According to the Kentucky Distillers Association, bourbon is an $8.5 billion industry in Kentucky and employs 17,500 people in the state. In 2016, 59 percent of U.S. bourbon exports — not all of which are from Kentucky — went to the European Union.


Ryland Barton is the Capitol bureau chief for Kentucky Public Radio.