ICYMI—Hagerty encourages USTR’s Ambassador Tai to negotiate a reduction in the tariff on Tennessee Whiskey; Calls it part of Tennessee’s ‘identity’

April 28, 2021

WASHINGTON—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN) today at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing encouraged United States Trade Representative Ambassador Katherine Tai to negotiate with her European counterparts and achieve a reduction in the tariff on American whiskey, including Tennessee whiskey, and halt the planned tariff increase from 25 to 50 percent, currently scheduled for June.


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Transcript Below:

Hagerty: I’d like to talk about another industry though that’s critical to our state. You know that I’m from Tennessee, and I’m sure you’re not going to be surprised at this question. But as my colleague, ranking member Moran, mentioned, there’s been a four month hiatus that’s taken place to negotiate between airlines and aircraft frames. There’ve also been a number of beverages included in that a hiatus on those tariffs, but what’s missing is American whiskey. American whiskey remains subject to a 25 percent tariff, and that tariff is going to go up to 50 percent in June if something isn’t done about it. American whiskey is critical to Tennessee’s industry, more important, it’s critical to our brand as a nation. I think you could go anywhere in the world and ask people about my home state of Tennessee, and they could tell you that whiskey is a big part of our culture. People abroad aren’t going to be able to buy her whiskey at a 50 percent tariff rate. So I’m interested in what you’ll be able to do to take on the problems of American whiskey being taxed at 50 percent.

Katherine Tai: Senator Hagerty, it’s very nice to see you in person, and you’re right, whiskey and bourbon from Tennessee and Kentucky also, I know it was a big producing state, are very much on our minds. We hear from these stakeholders directly about their concerns from these European Union retaliatory tariffs. What I would share with you is this, first I want you to know I think a lot about this, and we are working on this. But let me just frame this up a little bit in terms of the tariffs that the Europeans have on our whiskey, which is they’re part of the Section 232 suite of tariffs. This is where we are and this is actually, in terms of using tariffs for enforcement, this is actually the logic for how they’re supposed to work. We impose them, our when they have the rights will impose them back. And it’s not for the sake usually of just hitting each other with tariffs. It’s usually to motivate the two sides to get at resolving the issue. In the case of the 232’s, the issue that we need to resolve is the global overcapacity problem. And so here I’m using a slightly different set of words in tact to convey to you, but the same message that we really do need to work with others, especially the European Union, on the overall steel overcapacity problem. And so what I am hoping is that they see that problem and they see it to be as serious a challenge to our ability to produce and compete in steel-making as we see it. And that working together, we will be able to resolve these sets of tariffs, so that we can join forces on the bigger picture. So that’s how I’m approaching these conversations. I know that there are others in the administration who are working on this as well, and we will be working together to get out more effective solutions to the problems that we have.
Hagerty: As you can imagine, I don’t want Tennessee whiskey or Kentucky bourbon to be a casualty of this. Certain beverages have been included, others have not. I’m not certain the logic of how one was chosen and the other was not, but our situations are similar. In fact, maybe even more important given the identity associated with Tennessee whiskey and, and our brethren in other States, and it’s critically important to our state. So I appreciate your attention to that.