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The European Union is threatening retaliatory sanctions on American goods like whiskey, peanut butter, and motorcycles

Margaret Eby
March 08, 2018

The steep tariffs on imported aluminum and steel that President Trump proposed last week has some industries that rely on those products worried. But it's not just companies that use those metals directly. American whiskey makers see trouble ahead, too, thanks to a pointed speech from EU trade commissioner Cecila Malmström yesterday in which she proposed retaliatory taxes on American goods including bourbon, denim, bicycles, peanut butter, orange juice, and motorcycles. 

Those products might seem like a random assortment, but they're specific swipes at various lawmakers. Bourbon, of course, is made in Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell's home state of Kentucky. Orange juice is a bumper product for the swing state of Florida. 

In response, the maker of Jack Daniel's and Woodford Reserve, Brown-Forman Corp., released a statement strongly opposing the tariffs. "Brown-Forman could be an unfortunate and unintended victim of the policy," CEO Paul Varga told Bloomberg. "The overwhelming majority of our products are made here in America, and over the last few years... we've been investing heavily in our American manufacturing expansion."

A European whiskey tax would be onerous for Brown-Forman, given how well their brands sell internationally. "We're going to monitor the potential for retaliatory tariffs closely," Varga said. "And of course, we're sharing our point of view in Washington, as well."

Booze, in general, seems to be in the bullseye of the new tariffs. The beer industry is also worried about what the aluminum tariff will mean for canning their product, and will likely need to pass on the cost to consumers. MillerCoors, like Brown-Forman, made a public statement opposing the potential legistlation, calling the tariff "misguided" and warning that it would likely lead to job losses.  

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