Economy Kentucky Politics

Kentucky bourbon makers are celebrating after the European Union lifted tariffs on bourbon and whiskey that were imposed during former President Donald Trump’s administration.

The tariffs started in 2018 in retaliation for Trump’s taxes on EU-produced steel and aluminum, which he claimed were a threat to U.S. national security.

In a statement, Kentucky Distillers Association President Eric Gregory said the tariffs slowed down bourbon exports to the EU by half, costing the industry hundreds of millions of dollars.

“Kentucky Bourbon exports had enjoyed double-digit growth for a decade before the tariffs were imposed in 2018,” Gregory said.

He thanked Gov. Andy Beshear, Congressman John Yarmuth and officials in Europe for helping resolve the trade dispute.

The 25% tariff was set to double next month. U.S. and EU officials announced the deal over the weekend at the G20 summit in Italy.

As part of the agreement announced by U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, more European-made steel and aluminum will be allowed to enter the U.S. without tariffs. The EU will also lift other tariffs imposed in 2018.

The development takes the U.S. another step away from Trump’s brand of foreign policy, which provoked the EU to impose tariffs on a range of U.S.-made products like bourbon, peanut butter, cranberries and motorcycles.

Kentucky produces about 95% of the world’s bourbon, according to the KDA.

Beshear celebrated the decision in a statement on Twitter.

“The EU-US announcement to remove tariffs on Kentucky bourbon is great news! Bourbon is a $8.6 billion industry that provides 20,000 jobs to Kentuckians. Thank you to @SecRaimondo and the Biden administration and all those who helped make this win a reality for the commonwealth.

The United Kingdom, which is no longer a part of the EU, still has a 25% tariff on bourbon. In a statement, the KDA urged the U.S. and U.K. to resolve that dispute “so our legendary distillers can return at long last to doing what they do best – crafting the finest Bourbon for all the world to enjoy.”

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