The European Union is not willing to lie down in the face of Donald Trump’s threats to foreign steel interests, saying it would react within days of any policy change. And one of the main targets will be the bourbon industry.
Ahead of the G20 summit meeting in Hamburg on Friday, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker issued a stark warning to the U.S. government that the EU was “in elevated battle mood” and would be ready within 48 hours of any action taken by the U.S.
“I don’t want to tell you in detail what we’re doing,” Juncker told reporters. “But what I would like to tell you is that within a few days – we won’t need two months for that – we could react with counter-measures. I am telling you this in the hope that all of this won’t be necessary. But we are in an elevated battle mood.”
Negotiations are continuing, Juncker said, but he added that any move the U.S. wants to make to protect its steel industry from Chinese and German competition should be coordinated with Europe and not taken unilaterally.
In response, EU officials are planning to target U.S. agricultural products, and specifically the bloc is set to hit bourbon whiskey. The political impact of such a move would be significant, considering that bourbon is one of the main exports of the state of Kentucky, home of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
According to figures from the Distilled Spirits Council published last year, exports of bourbon, Tennessee whiskey, and rye whiskey to overseas markets such as the U.K. and Germany have more than doubled in the past decade, from $743 million in 2005 to a projected $1.56 billion last year.
European officials have also placed orange juice and dairy products on their list of products that will be hit with extra tariffs if Washington goes ahead with its plans.
EU officials are hoping to change Trump’s mind during the G20 summit meeting in Germany this weekend, given that $12 billion in EU exports to the U.S. are likely to be affected. The EU wants Trump to exclude its members from any new restrictions, with leaders of other countries — Canada, Mexico, Japan, and South Korea — also seeking a similar deal.