trade

Becca Schimmel

Bottles of bourbon make their way through the assembly line at Maker’s Mark, one of ten distilleries on the Kentucky bourbon trail. They’re cleaned, filled, capped and then dipped in the company’s signature red wax, a tradition that started with the wife of the distillery’s founder, Bill Samuels.

"She took red sealing wax, she put it in her family's deep fryer right there in the kitchen, dipped the first bottle of Maker’s Mark right there in her kitchen,” a tour guide explained. “She brought it out to Bill Samuels Sr. as he was sitting there in the kitchen and he hated it. Well, you see who won."


J. Tyler Frankin

Gov. Matt Bevin was non-committal when asked what he thinks of President Donald Trump’s proposal to institute tariffs on foreign-made steel and aluminum.

The policy could benefit Kentucky aluminum manufacturers like Braidy Industries — the company that Bevin helped attract to the state with a package of economic incentives — and Century Aluminum, which announced it would hire 300 new workers in Hancock County if the tariff went into effect.

Updated at 5:14 p.m. ET

President Trump promised steel and aluminum executives Thursday that he will levy tariffs on imports of their products in coming weeks. He said the imported steel will face tariffs of 25 percent, while aluminum will face tariffs of 10 percent.

"We're going to build our steel industry back and we're going to build our aluminum industry back," Trump told reporters.

If the Trump administration starts a trade war, Kentucky bourbon may get caught in the crossfire.

The administration is weighing strict new limits on imported steel and aluminum in hopes of shoring up homegrown metal industries. But European allies are warning of possible retaliation, including tariffs aimed at politically sensitive products such as bourbon and orange juice.

"That's what a lot of countries will look to do," said Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council. "Something that will get the Trump administration's attention."

Roxanne Scott

Some government and business leaders in Kentucky want the U.S. to lift its oldest economic sanctions against Cuba.

Tuesday marked the launch of the bipartisan Engage Cuba Kentucky State Council, which aims to promote relations between the two countries and lift the nearly 60-year embargo. Some believe the move would benefit both the Commonwealth and Cuba.

In June, President Trump announced that he would reinstate restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba along with other commercial prohibitions. In 2014, then-President Obama restored diplomatic ties with the country.

Bob Jagendorf/Flickr

Steel makers and manufacturers around the Ohio Valley are waiting for a report from the Trump administration that could trigger higher tariffs on imported steel and bring mixed results for a region that still has strong ties to the industry.

In the presidential campaign Trump told voters he would place sanctions on steel imports from China and other countries, and the report being prepared by the Commerce Department could provide a rationale for new tariffs.


We'll give it to you straight: If President Trump slaps a tariff on steel, the U.S. bourbon industry might be left reeling.

Trump has long vowed to impose tariffs on some imports, and his administration has recently focused on the steel industry. A blanket tariff on steel wouldn't just hurt China, the frequent target of Trump's trademark trade tirades. It would also deal a blow to allies such as Germany.

Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

Kentucky’s bourbon industry could find itself in the middle of a potential trade war between the United States and the European Union.

President Donald Trump wants to protect U.S. steel, which could include placing high tariffs on steel imports from China and Germany. In response, the European Union shot back. EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker said he would be ready within days to retaliate by placing high tariffs on American agricultural exports — and he specifically called out Kentucky Bourbon.

How Asian Politics Could Affect U.S. Coal

Apr 12, 2017
Peabody Energy, Inc., via Wikimedia Commons

With Australia coping with the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie and China turning back imports of coal from North Korea this week as apparent punishment for missile tests, U.S. coal exporters are hoping for a boost. But analysts aren’t predicting a coal comeback.

After banning imports of North Korean coal in late February, China started turning shipments away this week. Reuters reports that millions of tons of coal were sent back to North Korea. Largely, these were shipments of anthracite coal, typically used in steel production. S&P Global Market Intelligence’s coal reporter Taylor Kuykendall is skeptical that this event will produce significant effects here in the US.

“[Anthracite coal] is a really small part of our market and not produced that many places in the United States outside of Pennsylvania,” Kuykendall said.


Wikimedia Commons

Farmers in the Ohio Valley are waiting to see how President Trump’s choice to lead the Agriculture Department might affect their fortunes. Concerns over trade have held up a confirmation vote for nominee Sonny Perdue, and trade is also on the minds of regional growers.

Farmers here have been big winners under the North American Free Trade Agreement, and while farm country voted overwhelmingly for Trump, his talk about scrapping NAFTA has farmers like Jed Clark nervous.

Clark and his father farm 5,000 acres in western Kentucky’s Graves County, where they grow corn, wheat, soybeans and tobacco. Right now, Clark is thinking mostly about corn. Yellow corn is used mostly to feed livestock and the white corn is for human consumption. One of every four rows of it will go to Mexico.

Becca Schimmel | Ohio Valley ReSource

During the presidential campaign I visited two regional manufacturing executives who do business in the same county but hold views on trade that are worlds apart. Now that Donald Trump is the president-elect, I asked them and some regional economists how the new administration’s approach to trade might affect the Ohio Valley region.


Becca Schimmel | Ohio Valley ReSource

Trade has emerged as a potent issue this election season, with the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, a flash point in the political debate. The stakes are high for the Ohio Valley region, where thousands of workers and billions of dollars in goods could be affected by the outcome of this trade agreement.

Very different sides of the trade story can be found at  two manufacturing companies in southern Kentucky: conveyer-belt maker Span-Tech and auto parts maker Trace Die Cast.

These businesses are just 30 miles from each other, but when it comes to their views on trade, they’re worlds apart. Their differences can tell us a lot about why trade is such a contentious issue and what it means for our region.