Priority markets for the spirits sector

Top-10 Export Markets 2018


Overall direct export
sells (in €m)

1 USA 4,271 3% 100%
2 Singapore 987 11% 82%
3 China 589 -5% 151%
4 Russia 508 4% 27%
5 Canada 344 3% 82%
6 United Arab Emirates 311 12% 172%
7 Japan 286 15% 57%
8 Australia 282 6% 29%
9 Taiwan 260 6% 110%
10 Mexico 252 13% 104%



  • Direct exports in 2018: €4.3 billion.  The largest export market for the European spirits sector.
  • Applied import duty: 0
  • Barriers to trade: Regulatory differences, various non-tariff measures.

TTIP negotiations started in 2013 under the Obama Presidency. TTIP would help to reduce costs arising from obstacles and promote overseas protection of EU spirits geographical indications (GIs). In 2014, we shared our position paper with the European Commission. However, President Trump has not made the treaty a priority and negotiations were halted in 2016. Today we are facing a trade war(s) between the EU and USA. On 18 October 2019, a joint letter by EU and US producers was sent to the EUUS authorities to come back to the negotiations table.


  • Direct exports in 2018: €344 million.  The 5th largest export market for European spirits sector.

  • Applied import duty: 0% since provisional entry into force of CETA on 21 September 2017

  • Barriers to trade: Canadian Provincial Liquor Boards (independent monopolies, supervised by their provincial governments) control all the import, the sale and the distribution of wine and spirits.  Local producers have increasing opportunities to sell their products through monopolies (private stores, farmers market, direct sales to bars and restaurants...) leading to differences between the treatment of local and imported alcoholic beverages, which infringes both WTO disciplines and bilateral agreements signed by Canada. 

Canada is an important market for EU spirits but remains a challenging environment.  CETA was ratified by the European Parliament on 15 February and pending the 30+ national ratifications, provisionnaly entered into force in 21 September 2017.  The first meeting of the Committes on wine and spirits took place in July 2018 (report here) highlighting the remaining issues of concern. 


  • Direct exports in 2018: €589 million
  • Applied import duty: 10%
  • Barriers to trade: Problematic definitions for spirits, regulatory differences, GI protection.

China is for long one of our top export market. The development of this market continues to offer high opportunities for EU spirits but challenges remain. So far, we have witnessed a number of positive moves from the Chinese authorities. In November 2017, China decided to cut import tariffs on nearly 200 types of consumer goods in a bid to encourage domestic consumption. Both brandies and whiskies were covered by the decision, with an import tariff that shifted from 10% to 5%. In March, China announced to reduce VAT rates from 16% to 13% – a reduction that will equally apply to domestic and imported goods from today 1 April 2019. We had also welcomed the serious commitment by the General Administration of Customs to lift low-risk certificates for exporters. The commitment to achieve an ambitious EU-China Agreement on Geographical Indications (GIs) is a major prospect. And we hope further steps will be taken towards enhanced Intellectual Property (IP) protection through stronger enforcement. 


  • Direct exports in 2018: €195 million.
  • Applied import duty: 20%
  • Barriers to trade: Tariffs, limited intellectual property rights protection, lack of recognition of European GIs, discriminatory taxation and regulatory differences particularly in the case spirits definitions.

Despite a steady decline since 2013, MERCOSUR countries receive significant exports, with Brazil taking the biggest share. The size of these markets and the growing demand for quality European products require an ambitious trade agreement to solve a range of longstanding market access issues.

The deal must deliver a significant level of market access by removing the tariffs applied to spirits from entry into force, thus permitting our products to compete on a level playing field.  We understand that offers from MERCOSUR partners liberalises market access for most spirits in 15 years thereby introducing a difference between categories. This is not acceptable, especially when the tariff offer from the EU is on a phase-out of 10 years maximum.

A second point that is crucial for us but also for many other agri-food producers across Europe is the protection of GIs. It is probably the first time the EU faces with such a large number of GIs issues to be solved, be they from Ireland, France, Portugal, Italy, Spain etc. Conflicting names, genericity, anteriority of brand protections, etc. are at stake but we count on DG AGRI and DG TRADE not to sign any agreement that would not find a suitable solution for most of them! The EU – and increasingly other countries in the world like Japan and China - have understood the social and economic importance of GIs (driving for instance 2/3 of our spirits exports) and we should not compromise on this point.

Thirdly, the EU should also be ambitious in making sure that existing tax discrimination cannot remain at the risk of making market access meaningless for European exporters & investors.

Finally, the deal should remove the technical barriers that hamper access of EU spirits to the MERCOSUR markets. To remove the technical obstacles, we strongly support the inclusion of a wine and spirits annex that solves the non-tariff barriers that we encounter in the MERCOSUR markets and contains guarantees for effective implementation.



  • Direct exports in 2017: €180 million
  • Applied import duty: 150%
  • Barriers to trade: Punitive import tariff, Restrictive practices in the area of taxation, technical regulations, as well as 29 states each with independent regulatory powers on alcoholic beverages.

India remains a complex environment for trade due to significant import tariffs and its composition of 29 states with independent regulatory powers on alcoholic beverages.  Despite a 210% increase in EU spirits exports over the last decade, only 1% of consumption in India is of imported spirits.  An offensive EU trade strategy towards India is essential for further growth and development into this huge untapped market.


  • Direct exports in 2018: €107 million.
  • Applied import duty: 45%
  • Barriers to trade: Volatile tax policy and excise tax charges since 2015.  Vietnam changed the tax base for the calculation of excise duty of certain imported goods resulting in a considerable tax increase on imported spirits.  Along with the previously adopted increase in excise duty rates (for imported spirits from 50% to 55%), this puts at risk the benefits expected from the liberalisation negotiated under the EU-Vietnam FTA.

The EU-Vietnam trade agreement was signed in December 2015 and included elimination of the 45% import tariff after a period of seven years.  Vietnam is a high growth market for European spirits, with a huge increase in exports over the last decade.  Nonetheless, the full potential of the market, fuelled by the country’s sustained economic growth and dynamic demographics, has yet to be unleashed. On 17 October 2018, The European Commission adoped the Agreement which was sent to the Council and European Parliament. We are eager to see #EVFTA ratified and implemented. The vote in INTA is planned on 21 January 2020 with a Plenary Vote in February. Let's keep fingers crossed in particular because we would mainatin the competitive advantage we have over the CPTTP agreement as we have a 45% dismantling over 7 years versus 10 years for them. But they have started the countdown in 2019!

Further reading: Boosting EU trade with South East Asia – New Direction

“We've been showing a great deal of flexibility in Mercosur negotiations to accommodate the demands presented by the EU. We are confident the EU understands compromises are needed to cross the finishing line.”
H.E. Mr Viera Vargas, Ambassador of Brazil