Recognizing Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey in Bolivia

The U.S. and Bolivian governments are reinvigorating their desire for enhanced bilateral trade ties by mutually recognizing each other’s national alcoholic beverages.

Deputy U.S. Trade Representative C.J. Mahoney and Karen Longaric, Bolivia’s foreign minister, exchanged letters in Washington on Friday to start the process by the U.S. to designate singani as a distinctive product of Bolivia and the South American country to designate bourbon whiskey and Tennessee whiskey as distinctive U.S. products.

Singani is a distilled spirit made from white Muscat grapes and has been called the “national drink” of Bolivia. It is produced in the Bolivian Andes at elevations between 5,250 and 9,200 feet.

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) is expected to soon publish a notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register that will request public comments regarding the designation of Singani as a Bolivian product.

“If TTB promulgates a final regulation designating singani as a distinctive product of Bolivia, Bolivia will recognize bourbon whiskey and Tennessee whiskey as distinctive products of the United States,” the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) said in a statement. “This would be a favorable outcome for both U.S. and Bolivian industries and will create increased opportunities for exports of these spirits as previous designations have prompted.”

Bolivia will grant distinctive product status to bourbon whiskey and Tennessee whiskey within 30 days after the U.S. publishes a final rule to grant distinctive product status to Bolivian singani.

Rob Maron, vice president for international trade at the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S., said the mutual agreement will “ensure that only bourbon and Tennessee whiskey produced in the United States according to official U.S. standards may be sold in Bolivia.”

The trade association said Bolivia will become the 44th country to provide product protections for bourbon and Tennessee whiskeys.

According to the Distilled Spirits Council, bourbon and Tennessee whiskey are recognized as distinctive U.S. products by major trading partners, including the European Union (28 countries), Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Korea, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama and Peru.

The council noted that in 2018 Singani represented nearly 50% of total alcoholic beverage sales in Bolivia, with imported whiskey accounting for 9% of total spirits sales.

Source: SONAR Freight Market Dashboard

USTR said the total U.S. two-way goods trade with Bolivia in 2018 reached $1 billion. The U.S. goods trade surplus with Bolivia was $76 million.

Bolivia currently has a political leader who is more friendly toward the U.S. — interim President Jeanine Anez — who replaced Evo Morales after his resignation in October 2019.