Big Alcohol: Liquor Giants Create Global Lobby Group
Liquor giants join forces to create the new lobby group “World Spirits Alliance”. Some of the world’s largest liquor makers and trade associations unite to form the World Spirits Alliance (WSA), a global lobbying front group that aims to protect the profit interests of distillery businesses.
Some of the major liquor makers that are founding members of WSA are Beam Suntory, Brown-Forman, Campari Group, Diageo, Edrington, Pernod Ricard and Remy Cointreau. The European lobby group SpiritsEurope and the national lobby group Distilled Spirits Council of the United States are also founding members among the full list of 17 members.
Liquor industry lobbying ramping up
The WSA will be a “global voice” for the liquor industry, and will represent its interests before international organisations including the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN).
The new global lobby liquor lobby group will push the interests of their members in a number of policy areas, such as tariffs, non-tarrif trade barriers, import quotas, licensing restrictions, product standards, marketing regulations, intellectual property and distribution. Just Drinks reports that lobbying goals are
the elimination of tariffs, non-tariff barriers and discriminatory taxes…”
fair, transparent and evidence-based regulation, adequate excise tax structures, proportionate evidence-based public health measures for distilled spirits and ambitious strategies to combat illicit alcohol”.
The WSA will commence operations under the auspices of SpiritsEurope in Brussels. It will “act as a representative partner and interlocutor” for Big Alcohol in the liquor industry when lobbying the World Trade Organisation, the World Health Organisation and the United Nations.
The new WSA president, Rodolfo González González, heads of Camara Nacional de la Industria Tequilera,Mexico explains that the primary purpose of the lobby group is the protect the interests of the liquor industry, not public health and well-being, as per Just Drinks.
The aims of the WSA are to create a common platform for exchange and have a representative body that will allow us to comment on issues of global relevance, particularly in the areas of trade and regulatory policy, and help develop a positive environment for the sustainable success of the sector.”
It’s about ensuring profits through political activity.
Big Alcohol behind the new global lobby group
The founding members of WSA are a who is who of Big Alcohol and Big Alcohol’s most notorious lobby arms:
- Spirits Europe,
- Asia Pacific International Wines and Spirits Alliance,
- Camara Nacional de la Industria Tequilera,
- Scotch Whisky Association,
- Association of Canadian Distillers,
- Pernod Ricard,
- International Spirits and Wines Association of India,
- Japanese Spirits Liquor Makers Association,
- Distilled Spirits Council of the US (DISCUS),
- Spirits New Zealand,
- Rémy Cointreau,
- Beam Suntory,
- Spirits and Cocktail Australia,
- Campari, and
Amrit Kiran Singh of International Spirits & Wines Association of India will be the first Vice President. Marie Audren of SpiritsEurope will be the first secretary general.
Not a new group, not a new agenda
Already in July 2003 did the liquor industry announce joint lobbying efforts under the umbrella of the WSA. 16 years ago they had come together to interfere in the World Trade Organization ministerial trade talks in Cancun, Mexico, that were held in September 2003.
Key lobbying priorities were all selected to support the demand for open markets for the global liquor industry. The wish list reported by DISCUS reads like an attack on public health oriented alcohol policy measures:
Tariffs: Significant reductions, and where possible, elimination of tariffs on distilled spirits
Non-Tariff Measures: Reduction of non-tariff barriers, e.g., import quotas and import licensing restrictions, state-trading, inappropriate product standards and labeling requirements.
Services: Liberalization of restrictions on marketing, including the elimination of discriminatory advertising measures and restrictions on foreign firms engaged in importation, distribution or retailing.
Trade Facilitation: Simplified customs rules and elimination of excessive certification and documentation requirements.
Intellectual Property: Greater certainty of legal protection for spirits with geographical indications.”
In 2003, the WSA committed itself to “responsible marketing and advertising practices, vowing to redouble its efforts to ensure its products are directed to adult consumers.”
WSA exposed: Starting with a heavy backpack
16 years ago, there was at least lip service paid to responsible liquor marketing. For the 2019 launch, no such commitment has been reported. That says a lot about this lobby group.
Since 2003 and the initial commitment to “responsible marketing” that participants of WSA, such as Diageo, have made it abundantly clear that they have no interest in living up to their commitment. Alcohol marketing remain irresponsible and unethical and millions of children continue to be exposed to advertising, promotions and sponsorships of the companies behind the WSA.
For further reading
From the Science Hub: “A Content Analysis of Tobacco and Alcohol Audio-Visual Content in a Sample of UK Reality TV Programmes” Research article
Big Alcohol Exposed: “World Map of Big Alcohol Interference” Mapping of the 10 biggest alcohol producers, their largest global lobby group and their political interference.