WASHINGTON, DC – The Distilled Spirits Council today urged quick Congressional passage of the pending free trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia and applauded President Obama for submitting the FTAs to Congress.

“The Distilled Spirits Council long has supported prompt approval of these agreements because they will bring about significant new export opportunities for U.S. spirits producers,” said Christine LoCascio, Distilled Spirits Council Senior Vice President for International Trade.

“We applaud the President’s commitment to move forward with these free trade agreements.”

Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey Benefit

Under the agreement with Korea, tariffs on imports of Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey – which account for 68% of global U.S. spirits exports — will be lifted on the first day the agreement enters into force.  Korea’s tariffs on all other U.S. spirits will be removed over five years.  “This tariff elimination represents a huge benefit to Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey distillers who seek to export their products to Korea,” said LoCascio.

Tariffs also will be eliminated immediately on all U.S spirits exports to Panama and on U.S brandies, gins and liqueurs exports to Colombia upon entry into force of those agreements.  Colombia will eliminate tariffs on all other U.S. spirits over 10 years.

In addition to tariffs, LoCascio pointed out that the FTAs successfully address the principal non-tariff barriers currently impeding U.S. spirits exports to these markets and include important provisions recognizing Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey as products manufactured exclusively in the United States.

“We urge members of Congress to approve these agreements as soon as possible, so that U.S. spirits exporters can begin to reap the benefits of these comprehensive agreements” said LoCascio.

LoCascio noted that since July 2011, competitors in Europe have benefitted from tariff reductions on their spirits exports to South Korea, which has placed U.S. spirits at a competitive disadvantage in that market.   Other spirits-exporting countries are either negotiating or have concluded agreements with key trading partners that will undermine U.S. competitiveness and permit those countries to expand their market share at the expense of U.S. spirits products.

“In order to begin to reverse this trend, Congress must act quickly to pass these agreements,” she concluded.

Global U.S. spirits exports have more than doubled over the past decade; in 2010, the value of total U.S. spirits exports exceeded $1 billion for the fourth consecutive year.