Diplomatic gamble

The US and EU have a case of beer riding on Tuesday’s US-Belgium World Cup match

June 28, 2014
June 28, 2014

ASPEN, Colorado—United States trade representative Michael Froman said he and his European counterpart have bet a case of beer on the World Cup match between the US and Belgium.

Damien Levie, the European Commission’s head of relations with the US and Canada, is Belgian. His country is home to the world’s largest brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev, and more varieties of beer than anywhere else. Belgians drink an average of 84 liters (22 gallons) of beer every year.

Speaking at the Aspen Ideas Festival, Froman said he had wagered a case from Epic Brewing. Froman visited Epic’s brewery in Denver a few days ago as part of a public relations campaign to demonstrate how US trade deals help small businesses. He didn’t say what kind of beer Levie had put at stake.

The bet between Froman and Levie may be lighthearted, but it also unintentionally highlights an ongoing dispute over how the US taxes its beer exports. Large brewers pay an excise fee of $18 per barrel, but small brewers like Epic only pay $7 a barrel on their first 60,000 barrels. European brewers have argued (paywall) that the tax break puts them at a disadvantage as microbrews grow in popularity in the US.

Other countries place large tariffs on beer imports. “There’s a 35% tariff on beer in Vietnam,” Froman said. “These are the kinds of barriers that we want to break down.”

Belgium and the US play on Tuesday, July 1, in the first knockout round of the World Cup. Belgium is favored to win.

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