EU Threatens Retaliatory Tariffs on Bourbon, Levis, and Harleys

Shots fired: European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker threatens to fight back if President Trump imposes tariffs on steel and aluminum.

NYT (“E.U. Leader Threatens to Retaliate With Tariffs on Bourbon and Bluejeans“):

The European Union will hit back at the heart of the United States, slapping tariffs on products like Harley-Davidsons, Kentucky bourbon and bluejeans, if President Trump goes ahead with a plan to place tariffs on steel and aluminum imports, the president of the bloc’s executive arm vowed on Friday.

Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, made the remarks to the German news media in reaction to the proposed tariffs. He said the plans to tax the American goods, produced in the home states of key Republican leaders, had not yet been finalized, but amounted to treating them “the same way” that European products would be handled if the metals tariffs go through.

“None of this is reasonable, but reason is a sentiment that is very unevenly distributed in this world,” Mr. Juncker declared. He said any measures taken by the bloc would conform with rules set by the World Trade Organization.

His was not the only denunciation to flow in after Mr. Trump told industry executives on Thursday that he planned to impose penalties of 25 percent on steel imports and 10 percent on aluminum imports from all countries. Criticism came from governments, lawmakers, metals makers and labor unions around the world.

Steffen Seibert, a spokesman for the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, said on Friday that the government “rejects” the tariffs, adding that such measures could lead to a global trade war, which “can’t be in anyone’s interest.”

As a matter of self-interest, the fewer people bidding against me for bourbon, the better.

As a matter of economics, Juncker and company couldn’t be more right. Further, as the report goes on to note, European governments—almost certainly rightly—believe the threatened tariffs violate the rules of the World Trade Organization. Which, of course, the United States had a major hand in writing.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Just wanted to say James, it’s good to see you posting again.

  2. Kathy says:

    Well, I’m trumpfed (ie not surprised).

    Actually a bit surprised. I expected threats to more consequential products, like Boeing aircraft. But I guess the Europeans intend to stop the trade war before it begins, not escalate matters.

  3. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Thanks! I’m trying to get back into the swing of things.

  4. James Pearce says:

    How do you get the American-made Levis?

  5. James Joyner says:

    @James Pearce: I dunno; I was just going for parallelism. ‘Bourbon, Jeans, and Motorcycles’ was less interesting.

  6. EddieinCA says:

    @James Joyner:

    I second Ozark’s comments. Good to see you back here so often, Dr. Joyner.

    Also, if you’re a bourbon man, have you tried my two new favorites: Willet Pot Still Reserve or Weller? Both are amazing, for different reasons, assuming you can find them.

    Look them up. Better yet, buy them and try them and let me know what you think, assuming you don’t know them.

  7. James Joyner says:

    @EddieinCA: I’ve got a bottle of the Willett on my shelf. The Weller is almost as hard to find as Buffalo Trace’s other prestige brands, Pappy Van Winkle and George T. Stagg. I’m a big fan of the Weller Antique, though.

  8. CSK says:

    I haven’t seen J.T. S. Brown bourbon in quite a while.

  9. MarkedMan says:

    Ok, I’m going to bring this back to Trump. I’m not even going to ask if there’s anyone (aside from the usual gang of idiots) who think that Trump is some hidden genius. I’m simply going to ask: when was the last time our foreign policy was run in a way so obviously designed to hurt us rather than help us?

  10. CSK says:


    Not in my memory.

  11. EddieInCA says:


    I’m simply going to ask: when was the last time our foreign policy was run in a way so obviously designed to hurt us rather than help us?

    I’m going to only slightly quibble… here. I don’t think it’s designed to hurt us. That would mean a level of thinking and sophistication that Trump just doesn’t possess. The man cannot think strategically or tactically. As many have pointed out, the man is all “id”- all the time. He says whatever is on his mind, without any sort of filter, regardless of whether or not it completely goes against what he just said, or whether it makes sense.

  12. Slugger says:

    I am no international trade maven, but is it possible that Euros put enough money into the Bourbon business to allow some of these gourmet specialty vendors to exist? The tariffs might lead to a contraction in that market segment, and Dr. Joyner will be forced to drink Bourbon Ten High, my Dad’s favorite. I like the Bulleit Barrel Strength which is like 130 proof.

  13. James Joyner says:

    @Slugger: I suppose it’s possible but global demand is absurdly high. I wasn’t aware Bulleit made a cask strength; I thought all the MGB juice was the same and just bottled differently. I don’t love their standard bourbon expression but the rye is good.

  14. Moosebreath says:

    “EU Threatens Retaliatory Tariffs on Bourbon…Shots fired”

    Was that intentional?

  15. michael reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:
    I like Knob Creek, I like Bulleit, as well as Bookers and Bakers, but my go-to nowadays is Four Roses Single Barrel.

  16. James Joyner says:

    @CSK: I can get it for under $20 locally but, unfortunately, the Virginia stores don’t carry the bottled-in-bond version.

    @Moosebreath: Could be.

    @michael reynolds: My everyday pours are Knob and Wild Turkey 101. I’m a big fan of the Four Roses Single Barrel. Bookers is my favorite easily-obtainable expensive pour. I like Bakers fine but it’s nearly as expensive as the Bookers around here (Virginia has state stores) and not nearly as good.

  17. JohnMcC says:

    Not even 0900 yet and you guys are giving me a thirst!

    Would also interrupt the whiskey lovers’ club with the thought that if anyone has not seen the NBC (in particular) reporting on just how this tariff idea was brought to full flower, you must check it out. It’s amazing how screwed we all are.

  18. CSK says:

    More tariff fallout: Electrolux, the Swedish company that makes vacuum cleaners, has canceled its plan to invest $250 million in a plant in Tennessee.


  19. Mikey says:


    I am no international trade maven, but is it possible that Euros put enough money into the Bourbon business to allow some of these gourmet specialty vendors to exist?

    American bourbon is pretty popular in Germany these days.

    Beam Inc., the world’s No. 1 bourbon producer, says Germany is now the world’s third-biggest bourbon market after the heartland U.S. and Australia. Beam says Germany is nearly as important a growth engine as the emerging economies that are propelling global gains.

    “Germany is our third-largest market today, but it’s contributing 27% of our growth. Going forward, Germany is going to [contribute] a third of our growth and emerging markets about 40%,” said Albert Baladi, Beam’s head of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

    I know when we visit my wife’s family and ask them what they’d like us to bring from America, the answer is always “bourbon.”

  20. Jake says:

    “All of the usual suspects are freaking out over Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum. Most of it is by hysterics masquerading as analysts. Some of it is simply the innumerate throwing yet another tantrum about the bad man who vexes them. Some of the hysteria is due to the fact that people in the chattering classes were sure they had talked this bit of reality into going away for good. Reality, however, is that thing that does not go away when you stop believing in it. The reality of trade is now back.

    The amusing thing about trade debates among the chattering classes is that they never bother to mention the trade-offs that come with trade policy. Trade is, after all, like any other public policy. There is no policy option that does not come with a set of pluses and minuses. Our rulers, however, were sure they had sacralized their preferred set of trade-offs a long time ago. It turns out that the only people on whom this worked are the innumerate numskulls in the press. The rest of us remain skeptical about “free trade.”

  21. JJ says:

    The export market is smaller than the import market. If we lose the export market and gain the import market how are we not better off? In a trade war our trade deficit means we have all the big guns.

    You NeverTrumpers are freaking out over this. Your so called “analysis” is more Chicken Little the sky is falling rather than rational. Check out the tariff history of this country. We became the wealthiest nation on earth with tariffs. From the Tariff of 1861 until 1900 tariffs averaged 45 percent. We eclipsed Great Britain with tariffs.

    Get a grip on reality. Try reading Ravi Batra’s “The Myth of Free Trade the Pooring of America” and F. W. Taussig’s “The Tariff History of the United States.” Even better, take the blinders off and look with your own eyes at what free trade has done to your country.

  22. grumpy realist says:

    @Jake: Considering that the main country-that-gets-whacked by the tariffs is Canada, with whom we signed a friggin’ whopping trade treaty with called NAFTA….

    …what this is simply saying is that the US isn’t trustworthy enough to adhere to stuff it signed up to and we’re all at the whim of a spoiled brat of a president for whom his ego is the Most Important Thing In The World, bar nothing.

  23. James Joyner says:

    @Jake: Who exactly is the Z Man and why should I trust his judgment over that of the overwhelming consensus of macroeconomists going back more than two centuries?

  24. Jen says:

    I’m a single-malt Scotch girl, but enjoy Woodford Reserve bourbon on occasion. Putting the Four Roses on my list to try next time I need to purchase.

    On the steel tariffs, I’m waiting to see if Trump actually manages to go through with this. He hasn’t exactly been a profile in courage and steadfastness.