DISTILLED SPIRITS COUNCIL CALLS FOR REDUCED TARIFFS, OPEN MARKETS AT CANCUN WTO MINISTERIAL
CANCUN, MEXICO — As trade ministers from the World Trade Organization’s 146 member countries gather this week (September 10-14) in Cancún, Mexico, the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States urged negotiators to agree on a plan for aggressive trade liberalization and sharp reductions in the tariffs on processed agricultural products, particularly distilled spirits. “These talks hold real promise for the U.S. distilled spirits industry, which has become a dynamic export industry,” said Debbie Lamb, Senior Vice President for International Issues and Trade. Lamb is leading the Council delegation to the WTO Ministerial, and will also serve as an advisor to the U.S. government delegation. U.S. spirits exports have doubled since 1990; Bourbon exports – the leading U.S. export – are up 57% since the end of the last round of WTO negotiations. But it still faces very high tariffs in some of the most promising emerging markets. The base tariff in India, for example – a major spirits-producing and consuming nation – is an astronomical 166%. “Our key goal in these negotiations is to secure sharp reductions in these prohibitive tariffs, particularly in many promising emerging markets,” Lamb stated. “This is also an opportunity to eliminate spirits tariffs altogether by securing expanded participation in the ‘zero-for-zero’ agreement,” she noted. Zero-for-zero was an agreement reached by the major spirits-producing and -consuming nations during the last round of trade negotiations. As a result of the zero-for-zero agreement, U.S. spirits exports have grown and U.S. consumers have benefited from lower prices and greater choice. An expansion of the agreement will continue those positive trends. More Explicit Protection Sought For U.S. Geographical Indications “We also want to secure more explicit protection for the terms ‘Bourbon’ and ‘Tennessee Whiskey’ as geographical indications of the United States. This has become an even more important objective as our exports have grown,” she concluded.