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U.S. spirits makers suffer from retaliatory tariffs
Last Updated: 2019-02-13 17:10 | Xinhua
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The U.S. export of distilled spirits shrank following the imposition of retaliatory tariffs by major trading partners in the middle of 2018, the latest data released Tuesday by the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States showed.

U.S. whiskey exports were worth 526 million U.S. dollars between July and November 2018, down 8.2 percent from a year earlier, said Christine LoCascio, the council's senior vice president.

By contrast, global whiskey exports recorded a 28 percent growth to reach 595 million dollars in the first half of 2018.

U.S. spirits exports worth 763 million dollars became subject to retaliatory tariffs ranging from 140 percent to 10 percent since mid-2018 following the U.S. tariff hikes on steel and aluminum imports.

Among the trading partners involved, the European Union (EU) accounted for over 40 percent of the U.S. overseas spirits market in 2018, and whiskey alone contributed to 69 percent of total U.S. spirits exports in 2017.

In 2018, U.S. whiskey exports to the EU from January to November fell 8.7 percent year on year, but increased by 33 percent in the first half, the council's data showed.

A similar pattern was noticed in the case of Canada, in which U.S. whiskey exports in the five months declined by 8.3 percent, but expanded by 12.4 percent in the first half.

Scott E. Harris, founder and general manager of the small-sized distillery Catoctin Creek based in Virginia, said he has lost 100,000 dollars due to contracts called off for the EU market, and postponed expansion plans, with a hiring freeze and a halt to pay rises, among other things, after the retaliatory tariffs.

"I think we just have to wait right now. A lot of tariffs are here because that puts a very negative impact on our business," Harris told Xinhua.

Harris said he believed that the tariff issue would be resolved eventually.

"We strongly encourage the (Trump) Administration and our trading partners in the EU, Canada and Mexico to quickly resolve these harmful tariffs that are undercutting economic growth in this sector and adversely affecting American workers," said Chris Swonger, president and CEO of the Distilled Spirits Council.

Despite the slowdown in growth, U.S. total exports of distilled spirits are expected to post a record high last year. At the end of November 2018, they were estimated to be some 1.7 billion dollars, compared to the 1.6 billion dollars for the whole year of 2017.

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