(Adds comment from distillers trade group)
WASHINGTON, April 5 (Reuters) - Some 50 members of Congress on Monday urged U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to seek removal of 25% tariffs on American Whiskey imposed by the European Union and Britain in retaliation for U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum.
The bipartisan group of House of Representatives members, led by Democrat John Yarmuth and Republican Andy Barr, both of Kentucky, warned that these tariffs, first imposed in June 2018 and scheduled to double to 50% on June 1, are damaging an American export success story.
“Since the tariffs were imposed, our American Whiskey exports to the EU have declined by 37% and to the UK by 53%,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter.
Lisa Hawkins, a spokeswoman for the Distilled Spirits Council trade group, said there are now craft distillers in every U.S. state that risk being hurt further by the tariffs.
“American whiskey distillers have suffered long enough from these trade disputes and the doubling of the EU’s tariff on June 1 will cause irreparable harm to our once booming exports,” Hawkins said in an emailed statement.
The lawmakers said they hoped that recent agreements to suspend separate whiskey tariffs related to a dispute over government subsidies given to plane makers Boeing Co and Airbus SE would lead to “prompt removal of all tariffs on U.S., EU and UK wine and distilled spirits.”
Permanently lifting the tariff burden will also support the recovery of restaurants, bars and small craft distilleries that were forced to shut down during the coronavirus pandemic, they wrote.
The steel and aluminum tariffs were imposed under the jurisdiction of the Commerce Department under a Cold War-era national security trade law.
Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has said those tariffs have been “effective” in protecting U.S. metals producers, while Tai has said a global solution to reduce excess production capacity for steel and aluminum, largely centered in China, was needed to resolve the industry’s issues.
A USTR spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment on the letter. (Reporting by David Lawder in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis and Himani Sarkar)