U.S. lawmakers urge USTR Tai to seek removal of UK, EU whiskey tariffs

FILE PHOTO: Katherine Tai, who at the time was U.S. President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee to be U.S. trade representative, speaks after Biden announced her nomination during a fresh round of nominations and appointments at a news conference at his transition headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., December 11, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Some 50 members of Congress on Monday urged U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to take action to secure removal of 25% tariffs on American Whiskey imposed by the European Union and Britain in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum.

The bipartisan group of House of Representatives members, led by Democrat John Yarmuth and Republican Andy Barr, both of Kentucky, warned that these tariffs, first imposed in June 2018 and scheduled to double to 50% on June 1, are damaging an American export success story.

“Since the tariffs were imposed, our American Whiskey exports to the EU have declined by 37% and to the UK by 53%,” the lawmakers wrote.

They said they hoped that recent agreements to suspend separate whiskey tariffs related to the dispute over government subsidies given to plane makers Boeing Co and Airbus SE would lead to “prompt removal of all tariffs on U.S., EU and UK wine and distilled spirits.”

Permanently lifting the tariff burden will also support the recovery of restaurants, bars and small craft distilleries that were forced to shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, they wrote.

The steel and aluminum tariffs were imposed under the jurisdiction of the Commerce Department under a Cold War-era national security trade law.

Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has said those tariffs have been “effective” in protecting U.S. metals producers, while Tai has said a global solution to reduce excess production capacity for steel and aluminum, largely centered in China, was needed to resolve the industry’s issues.

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