By Mark Gillespie
May 24, 2021 – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to end Great Britain’s import tariff on Bourbon and other American whiskies during his 2019 campaign, and now, his government is taking the first step that could do just that. International Trade Secretary Liz Truss announced today that the government will start a six-week long consultation period with UK stakeholders to review the “Section 232″ tariffs imposed on American exports in 2018 by the European Union.
The tariffs were in retaliation for those imposed by the Trump Administration on imports of steel and aluminum to protect the U.S. steel industry on national security grounds. Great Britain inherited the tariffs when it left the EU earlier this year, and Truss said her goal is to shape tariffs to reflect UK-specific interests. She cited positive discussions with U.S. negotiators and a desire to remove the tariffs for today’s move.
“The UK will do whatever is necessary to protect our steel industry against illegal tariffs that could undermine British industry and damage our businesses. Ultimately, however, we want to deescalate these disputes so we can move forward and work closely with the US on issues like WTO reform and tackling unfair trade practices by non-market economies,” Truss said in a statement issued by the Department of International Trade.
Last week, European Union leaders announced a suspension of the automatic doubling of the tariffs from 25% to 50% scheduled for June 1. That move follows a similar agreement with the Biden Administration to open talks aimed at solving the global oversupply of steel and aluminum that led to the Trump Administration’s 2018 move.
The retaliatory tariffs also targeted other exports from politically sensitive U.S. states, such as motorcycles, orange juice, and tobacco, as European leaders hoped Congressional leaders from those states would put pressure on former President Donald Trump to withdraw the steel and aluminum tariffs. That move was unsuccessful, and may have led to the U.S. specifically targeting single malt whiskies from Scotland and Northern Ireland in its 2019 tariffs against the EU for illegal subsidies to Airbus.
This story is developing, and will be updated with additional information.