After three years of languishing in the White House inbox, there were a number of free trade agreements set to be voted upon with one in particular of interest to the Spirits industry. The free trade agreement with South Korea included a lifting of a 20% tariff on Bourbon and Tennessee Whiskey. To the chagrin of some whiskey enthusiasts, the Pacific Rim has been a growing market for American whiskey. The attendees at the Spirit of Mount Vernon knew the vote for the free trade agreement was happening that evening and there was some anticipation passage was imminent. But then news came of a bizarre Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in Washington DC as well as attack the Saudi and Israeli Embassies. It was reported that the Senate was being briefed on this late breaking news which had the potential of delaying the vote.......groan goes the crowd.
Many of us already know that Japan consumes a great amount of American Whiskey as does many European countries. Spreading this golden wealth to the world can certainly have an impact to those of us here in the homeland looking for current and limited release labels. Is it a good thing that the world loves our product? Maybe, maybe not. Considering the economics of supply and demand let's hope the increased interest (and lower tariffs) don't make it harder to find the good stuff on our own turf. We've all seen label changes over the last number of years from lower proofs to dropping age statements (e.g. Old Weller Antique) and some labels disappearing altogether. Is it a crazy idea that increased international interest has affected these changes? Hmmm.....let me dig out my tin foil hat and think on that one.
The trade agreement with South Korea did pass later that evening and the Mount Vernon crowd cheered. Should we be cheering? I'm undecided.