How Trump's Tariffs Haunt Kentucky's Whiskey Distillers: 'we're Still On Death Row'

Posted: Jun 14, 2021

Dozens of cases of whiskey sit on the ground floor of the James E. Pepper Distillery in Lexington, Kentucky, ready to be shipped -- but, because President Joe Biden hasn't moved to end trade disputes started under former President Donald Trump, none of it will be going to thirsty customers overseas.

Owner Amir Peay had big dreams for selling James E. Pepper in Europe when he started producing these bottles four years ago. He rented space in a warehouse in Europe, setting up a whole new distribution system. But then Trump started a series of trade fights with the European Union, which retaliated by slapping a 25% tariff on American whiskey, making Peay's bottles much more expensive for European drinkers.

Peay's European sales steadily declined, and over time James E. Pepper lost 75% of its foreign business. He hoped for a reversal once Biden took office, but like other exporters, he's been disappointed. Biden is meeting his foreign counterparts this weekend at the G7 summit in Britain, but it's unclear how long the tariffs will stay in place, despite recent signs that the American and European officials will begin negotiating on trade.

"We're still on death row," Peay said.

By Katie Lobosco
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