FRANKFORT, Ky. — President Donald Trump's trade war dampened the overseas market for American-made whiskey last year, diminishing exports even as the domestic market continues to thrive.
Overall exports of bourbon, Tennessee whiskey and rye whiskey tumbled amid a trade war-induced decline in exports to key European markets. At home, U.S. sales posted solid gains, especially for pricier premium brands, the Distilled Spirits Council reported Wednesday.
For distillers, it was the proverbial glass-half-full, glass-half-empty, scenario.
"While it was another strong year for U.S. spirits sales, the tariffs imposed by the European Union are causing a significant slump in American whiskey exports," said Chris Swonger, the council's president and CEO.
American whiskey makers have been caught in the middle of a trans-Atlantic trade dispute since mid-2018, when the EU imposed tariffs on American whiskey and other U.S. products in response to Trump's decision to slap tariffs on European steel and aluminum.
American whiskey exports to the EU were down 27% in the last year, the council said. American whiskey accounts for 65% of all U.S. spirits exports, and the EU is the top export market for whiskey makers. Exports plunged by nearly 44% in Spain, nearly 33% in the United Kingdom and almost 20% in France, the council said.