Let’s set aside arguments about the degree to which tariffs will impact Kentucky to settle on the simple truth that there’s more bad than good about the tit-for-tat trade war we find ourselves in.

Yes, we’re in a trade war — at least the start of one. And Kentucky finds itself among the victims. Bourbon, one of the commonwealth’s signature products, is the subject of tariffs.

Most notably, the United States has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum with American allies, including the European Union. The EU retaliated with its own set of tariffs, which include bourbon.

Meanwhile, an entirely separate battle is playing out between the U.S. and China, with both sides matching each other’s tariff threats.

In a TV interview last week, Gov. Matt Bevin downplayed the fears that the EU’s tariffs will disrupt Kentucky’s booming bourbon industry. It won’t be a “tremendous impact,” Bevin said. Europeans are still going to drink bourbon, but they’ll just pay more for it, he said.

While that may be true — we believe it’s best to avoid tariffs entirely.

The world used to be a collection of economies in which individual countries were their own entities. Cloth and electronics sold locally were American-made.

From coffee cups to cell phones, many of the products we use are no longer made in America. Kentucky bourbon is sold to a global market rather than a national or regional one.

We believe tariffs are more likely to disrupt symbiotic relationships than immediately fix a trade imbalance.

As Kentucky Distillers’ Association President Eric Gregory said in a news release last week, “There are no winners in a trade war, only casualties and consequences.”

But Bevin may be right.

The bourbon industry may continue its growth regardless of tariffs. After all, Buffalo Trace, one of our Frankfort’s largest employers, said earlier this month it plans to continue its expansion in the face of tariffs. Time will tell whether tariffs are detrimental to the bourbon industry’s growth or just a speed bump.

Regardless, we believe that free-flowing trade and avoiding tariffs altogether provide a much better environment in which the commonwealth’s bourbon industry can flourish.

— The State Journal

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