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Kaine, Warner Call For End To Whiskey Tariff War

AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein

Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine are urging the Biden administration to take action to help Virginia whiskey makers.

Here's something that might cause you to drink. The price of whiskey has gone up, thanks in part to the trade wars of the Trump era.

Mac McCormack of McCormack's Big Whiskey Grill in Richmond says when the former president imposed his whiskey tariff, the price of one of his high-end bottles went from $2,000 to $2,500.  "I don't know why Trump felt like putting tariffs on Scotch whiskeys and Irish whiskeys would make people drink more American whiskey because that's not really the way the world works. Making Scotch more expensive to the consumers of the United States doesn't make them drink American whiskey," McCormack says.

The Trump years saw a series of tariffs and retaliatory tariffs. But now that Biden is in office, Senator Mark Warner and Senator Tim Kaine are urging the new administration to take action to get the European Union and the United Kingdom to end their retaliatory tariffs on our whiskey.

"Nobody wins a tariff war just like nobody wins a nuclear war," argues Michael Farren at the George Mason University's Mercatus Center. 

But Farren admits unwinding the trade wars of the Trump years won't be easy.  "Tariffs on American whiskey going to the EU are tied to the tariffs against EU steel producers. So if Americans get rid of their steel tariffs, then the EU and UK will get rid of their whiskey tariffs."

That might not be as easy as it sounds, he says, because those tariffs help American steelworkers and harm Virginia whiskey producers and Virginia whiskey drinkers.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.


Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.