Meet Our Members
The National Association of Beverage Importers, Inc. (NABI) is a national trade association representing the interests of beer, wine and spirit importers at state and federal levels. Our mission is to help the importer members operate their businesses more efficiently and profitably by providing timely information, aggressive representation, and thoughtful advice on technical and political matters.

Learn more about NABI membership or if you have a question about importing an alcohol beverage into the United States, please do not hesitate to call us at (202) 393-6224 or email nabipresident@bevimporters.org

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Insight + Resources

  • New President at NABI

      News..... from NABI regarding their appointment of Rob Tobiassen as the new president of the importers organization (effective October 1).He takes over for Bill Earle, who served for almost 12  years as the organization's chief executive. Justin Kissinger (a HEINEKEN global employee), is the chairman of the organization, and had the following statement:“We are extremely pleased that Rob will be leading the Association.

  • NABI and other Trades encourage support for TTB

    NABI joined with trade associations representing the beverage alcohol industry encouraging support for federal regulator TTB.  TTB's oversight provides for a well regulated marketplace while supporting the state and local enforcement agencies across the country.  FINAL Industry TTB Letter 5 25 17.docx

  • Craft Beverage Modernization Act includes Importers

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NABI Letter to USTR on U.S./United Kingdom Trade Agreement Negotiating Objectives

NABI submitted a letter, dated January 15, 2019, to the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) pointing out the areas where current trade agreements relating to wines and distilled spirits with the European Union need to be made applicable to the United Kingdom once the latter leaves the European Union.  Thanks to the NABI Members who commented on the draft comment letter that was circulated last week.  The comment letter is on the public record file at:  https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=USTR-2018-0036-0131   



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                      (NABI Press Release No. 2019-6)       

National Association of Beverage Importers, Inc.  

Washington, DC                                                                               

July 9, 2019

 NABI Highlights Label Proposals to TTB Rulemaking   

The National Association of Beverage Importers, Inc. (NABI) put forth a number of key revisions to the proposed labeling and advertising regulations last week in its comment letter to TTB that would greatly enhance the alcohol importation industry without undermining the important consumer protection purpose of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act of 1935.   

Specifically,   

Adopting a Notice to TTB approach in lieu of the present application approval approach for COLA Waivers.  Importers would simply notify TTB of samples coming in for trade shows or sales promotions and affix the standard strip label stating the restricted nature of the bottled product.  Delay times awaiting approval and staff resource time by TTB would be gone and these imports would not be interrupted by any lapse in appropriations.  Targeted post-audit reviews by TTB would prevent abuse of this Notice approach.

 Since enactment of the labeling provisions in 1935, the “commercial speech doctrine” under the First Amendment has significantly changed how a Federal agency may restrict truthful and accurate information on labels so the NABI comments point out ways that the “misleading” standard may be applied more transparently in label approval reviews.   

Today’s consumer is more sophisticated than the dry-consumer coming out of Prohibition who perhaps needed greater government protection so the 21st Century labeling and advertising regulations need not be as comprehensive.  Moreover, the younger generation of consumers use I-phone and online research for immediate information about the brands of alcohol beverages they are consider purchasing.  Self-policing of label claims by consumers is greater today and the “brand death” from a misleading claim going viral on social media is a more effective deterrent than many government regulations.     

Private labels and controlled labels are claiming more and more of the retail market space and the labeling regulations need to include provisions recognizing the ways to inform consumers about these brands.  Additional NPRM notice and comment opportunity is needed here.   

Global trade is bringing new distinctive products to consumers in the United States.  The regulations must include an administrative process to provide formal recognition to these distinctive products from other countries so that consumers may purchase with certainty the authentic product.   

The “approximately 50-gallon barrel” standard is unworkable for imported products.  Production practices in other countries cannot be expected to conform to a United States requirement like this one, nor can importers be expected to police this type of production requirement on the bottled alcohol beverages they import.   

Mandatory Certificate of Label Approvals (COLAs) retention by importers should not be required because the approved COLAs are always available online with TTB so this is an unnecessary and duplicative burden on the industry.  Optional retention by the importer should be the norm.   

The new regulations on “Substantiation Requirements” must be clarified and narrowed to inform adequately the industry member of the requirements.  The proposed regulations impose a new requirement for importers (and domestic bottlers) to provide upon demand from TTB “evidence” sufficient to substantiate “any claim made on any label or container subject to the requirements of this part.”  A claim may be “implicit or explicit.”  As worded, this provision is far too vague under due process requirements of informing the industry member of its obligations.  What might be an implicit claim is too open ended for an importer to know what informational evidence it must maintain for five years.  In light of the huge numbers of different brands and SKUs entering the United States marketplace each year, this regulatory burden is enormous, unlimited in scope, and unmanageable.  “Due process” requires far more clarity than what is in these proposed sections.   

NABI greatly appreciates the NPRM by TTB and sees this as an important opportunity to reduce regulatory burdens and adopt new, creative, and innovative approaches to labeling and advertising regulation reflective of the mature consumers and the sophisticated industry business models.  TTB has a great opportunity here to move some proposals quickly to final regulations and in the near future re-notice those proposals from the comments that may require further notice and comment opportunity under the Administrative Procedures Act before moving to a final regulation.  We commend TTB in advance for consideration of such a two-step approach.   

NABI’s extensive comment letter is available as Comment No. 984, at:  

https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=TTB-2018-0007-0987   

For further information, please contact

Robert M. Tobiassen, NABI President, or 

Bernadeen Emamali, NABI Vice-President and Corporate Secretary 

at: (202) 393-6224                                                         www.bevimporters.org  



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                     (NABI Press Release No. 2019-5)      

National Association of Beverage Importers, Inc.

Washington, DC                                                                               

May 30, 2019 

NABI Opposes Taxing Happiness and Responsible Drinking.  Don’t You?   

Tariffs are taxes.   Paid by importers at the time of the entry of these products, these monies fill the Treasury coffers in the identical manner as do taxes.  But then these financial impositions on imported distilled spirits, wines, and beers are borne by consumers.    

The United States has proposed retaliatory tariffs against European Union (EU) products as a result of the World Trade Organization (WTO) decision that the EU gave improper subsidies to Airbus that, in turn, harmed Boeing from a competitive disadvantage point of view.  In addition to tariffs aeronautical parts (which are at the heart of the dispute), the proposed retaliatory tariffs include grape wines from the EU, grape-based distilled spirits, liqueurs and cordials, and nonalcoholic beers.   

NABI President Robert M. Tobiassen said “the wide range of imported alcohol beverages available to consumers reflect their demand for these products.  The United States is a hugely consumer driven economy and retailers offer products that consumers want for their pleasure and enjoyment.”  For fiscal year 2018, TTB approved 185,072 certificates of label approval (COLAs) of which 86,958 represented domestic products and 98,114 represented imported products. Consumers want these unique products and are demanding them.   Tobiassen asks “Why tax their happiness?”    

Earlier this month, at a public hearing in Washington, DC on the proposed tariffs, trade officials suggested that they view many of the goods and commodities on these proposed tariff lists as fungible or generic in nature.  That is, red wine is a red wine or a liqueur is a liqueur.  This assumption fails to recognize the fact that consumers of alcohol beverages have very subjective tastes and loyalties to specific types of these beverages.  Visit any bar or pub and many, many customers order their alcohol beverages by brand or place of origin.  A red Burgundy/Bourgogne is not an American Pinot Noir to them, nor is a white Burgundy/Bourgogne an American chardonay to these wine consumers.  Flavors, taste characterisitcs, and aromas between wines are all distinctive to these consumers.  Why should they be penalized to pay more for these wines they enjoy.  These consumer preferences are equally held by consumers in distilled spirits and non-alcoholic beers as well.  Grappa consumer want their grappa from Italy as do Cognac consumers want their product from France.   

Moreover, the public is turning to more low alcohol or nonalcoholic beverages.  Importation of nonalcoholic beers enable retailers to meet this consumer demand, as well as advance public health and safety policies.  The Federal government through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse (NIAAA), National Institute of Health (NIH), and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, among others, has a strong public health policy of promoting responsible and moderate consumption of alcohol beverages by those consumers who decide to drink in the first instance.  Nonalcoholic beers directly advance and support this vital public health policy.  Retaliatory tariffs making access to these nonalcoholic beers harder undercuts the promotion of this sound public health policy.   

Similarly, sound public welfare policies are advanced here too in regards to preventing automobile deaths by drunk drivers.  Designated drivers may safely consume nonalcoholic beers as part of their friends’ social gatherings.   

This is a dispute over large civil aircraft.  Other than being served on airplanes, alcohol beverages have no nexus to aircraft.  Sufficient tariffs imposed on aeronautical parts will compensate the United States and deal directly with negating the competitive advantages from the improper EU subsidies.   

Don’t tax consumers’ happiness; don’t undercut sounds public policies on responsible consumption.   

For further information, please contact 

Robert M. Tobiassen, NABI President, or 

Bernadeen Emamali, NABI Vice-President and Corporate Secretary 

at: (202) 393-6224                                                         www.bevimporters.org



NABI Elects New Chairman of the Board

NABI Elects New Chairman of the Board and Explores the Opportunities and Challenges of the 21st Century Global Market at its 84th Annual Meeting 2019 
 
Gabriel Bisio, General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer of Palm Bay International was elected as Chairman of the Board at the 84th Annual Meeting of the National Association of Beverage Importers (NABC) in New York City.  NABI President Robert Tobiassen said “We are pleased and fortunate to have Gabe as our Chairman for the next two years as he brings more than 15 years of alcohol beverage industry experience from his work with the Taub Family Company and before that Diageo North America.  Gabe, an attorney with a vast international experience understands both the challenges of family and global companies, along with the diversity of the New World producers of wine, distilled spirits, and beers, and Old World traditions.”  
 
Gabe follows Chairman Justin Kissinger now Director, Global Public Policy, HEINEKEN N.V., who commenced his NABI service when he was at HEINEKEN USA.  The Board expressed its gratitude to Justin for his dedication.  
 
NABI members at the annual meeting and working lunch focused on the three elements of our Strategic Goal and Plan for 2019 and Forward of (1) delivering business services to members grounded in our presence in Washington, DC with person-to-person contacts, (2) being a key information source for members of new regulatory developments and up to date market trends, and (3) networking with domestic associations and international organizations focused on streamlining trade and modernization regulatory regimes.  
 
In helping to set the stage for the strategic goal discussion, NABI had the great benefit of insights from Susan Evans, Director, TTB Office of Industry and State Relations on where TTB is going and from Bobby Conroy, Wine Director, The Clock Tower, NYC, Court of Master Sommeliers, who helped us understand the dining consumer alcohol beverage selection experiences.  For without an understanding of the consumer demand pulling imported products through the distribution system, there would be no imports.  
 
NABI is the leading trade association for importers of distilled spirits, wine, beer, and low and non-alcoholic beverages in the United States.  Established in 1935, in the wake of the Repeal of Prohibition, NABI has aided its members for eight decades in importing the widest range of products for American consumers to enjoy in a responsible manner.  Recently, NABI has been the strong advocate for the import provisions of the Craft Beverage Modernization Act (CBMA) and worked closely with Customs and Border Protection on its implementation.  Ease of administration and protection of the tax revenue are the guideposts of NABI’s efforts on CBMA.  Today, there are more than 12,000 importer basic permits issued by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau providing solid, wellpaying jobs in every State and jobs that cannot be shipped overseas.  “Delivering a WORLD of taste to AMERICA” is the NABI moto and goal.  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                     (NABI Press Release No. 2019-3)     

National Association of Beverage Importers, Inc.  

Washington, DC                                                                               

May 15, 2019   

NABI Testifies Against Retaliatory Tariffs on Imported Wines, Distilled Spirits, and Non-alcoholic Beers in USTR Hearing   

Today, the National Association of Beverage Importers, Inc. (NABI) testified at the Section 301 Committee of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in Washington, DC against the proposed retaliatory tariffs on imported grape wines (regardless of alcohol content or effervescence) non-alcoholic beers, liqueurs and cordials, and grape derived distilled spirits (that is, brandy).   

NABI President Robert M. Tobiassen stressed that the retaliatory tariffs should be limited to aeronautics equipment because that is the underlying trade dispute.  Airbus operations in the United States import parts and equipment from the EU to assembly its aircraft here and those goods should bear the entire tariff burden in order to compel the EU to cease the wrongful subsidies to Airbus.  This directly attacks the unjustified competitive harm to Boeing.   If other goods are covered by retaliatory tariffs, then they should do the least damage to the interests of American consumers, industries, economy, and Federal Government public policies.   

NABI President Tobiassen said “the Federal Government should speak with one voice and not impose retaliatory tariffs that undercut other Federal public policies.”  Imported alcohol beverages raised significant excise tax revenues for the Treasury and nothing in trade policy should undercut that sound fiscal policy. The Department of Health and Human Services along with the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse has a strong public health policy on moderate consumption which is advanced by non-alcoholic beers.  Non-alcoholic beers allow consumers to join with their friends in social settings and have a range of social beverages without alcohol available for their enjoyment.  The Department of Transportation has drunk driving prevention public policies that are advanced by designated drivers consuming non-alcoholic beers.   

The wide range and brand diversity of imported distilled spirits and wine shows that consumers see many of these imported products as having unique characteristics not available to them in domestic alcohol beverage products.  For fiscal year 2018, TTB approved 185,072 certificates of label approval (COLAs) of which 86,958 represented domestic products and 98,114 represented imported products. Consumers want these unique products and are demanding them.    

Imported distilled spirits and wines and domestic distilled spirits and wines are not necessarily interchangeable and fungible in all brand cases.  This is not true of many other goods and commodities on the retaliation tariff list.  There is no sound policy reason to deny American consumers access to these unique and different imported products not otherwise available to them with a domestic counterpart or from a country other than an EU Member States.  Nor should they have to pay higher prices for their preferred tipple.  Consumers hold personal preferences that are subjective and deserve to be respected by trade negotiators.  Tariffs on these products are essentially taxes on happiness.   

NABI joined 48 trade associations and businesses testifying on all aspects of the proposed tariffs and was the only alcohol beverage association to present oral testimony.  Final written comments are due by May 28, 2019.  NABI is preparing additional comments and is working with DISCUS and other trade associations on a common approach to oppose these tariffs.   

The Section 301 Committee is chaired by USTR and has members from the Treasury Department, State Department, Department of Agriculture, Small Business Administration, Department of Transportation, Department of Commerce, and Department of Labor.  After all of the testimonies and comments are received on May 28th, the Section 301 Committee will prepare a final retaliatory tariff list with percentages of the rates of the retaliatory tariffs.   

For further information, please contact 

Robert M. Tobiassen, NABI President, or 

Bernadeen Emamali, NABI Vice-President and Corporate Secretary 

at: (202) 393-6224      

www.bevimporters.org



Welcome to Giorgio Gori USA, Inc. As newest NABI Associate Member

Giorgio Gori USA, Inc. is primarily involved in freight services and in related aspects and functions with wine and spirits logistics specialists.  Giorgio Gori USA operates in New Jersey.



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                     (NABI Press Release No. 2019-4)   

National Association of Beverage Importers, Inc.  

Washington, DC                                                                               

May 27, 2019   

NABI Mourns the Passing of TTB Administrator John J. Manfreda – A Visionary and A Friend   

NABI extends its deepest sympathy to John’s wife Rosemary, his children Michelle, Matthew, and Brendan and their families in this sad time of loss.    

NABI President Robert M. Tobiassen prepared the remarks below.  From 1978 to 2003, at ATF, John was Rob’s first- or second-line supervisor and always his mentor.  John encouraged Rob to follow John in earning a Masters in Tax Law from Georgetown University Law School and develop a keen interest in alcohol and tobacco taxation, regulation, and compliance controls.  From 2003 to 2012, John was one of Rob’s principal program clients at TTB in his role as TTB Chief Counsel.   

We are All the Lesser   

“Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom.”  Edmund Burke 1720-1797

 John Joseph Manfreda was a gracious gentleman, wise mentor, fierce and yet fair challenger, and a truly magnanimous person.  He will be missed.   

There are so many stories to tell about John it is hard to know where to start.   

He was proud that he was a native of the DC metropolitan area. If my memory has not failed. I believe that he first saw Rosemary when he was working part-time in the butcher section of a grocery store and she walked by and he cut himself on the meat cutter.  He knew that she was the woman to be his wife.    

John understood work-life balance before it was trendy.  His coaching of local basketball teams and his devotion to family were always there.  His handyman skills helped to renovate houses for family members and he would wait for Rosemary to leave the house before he did crazy work like taking down really tall trees in his backyard.  Family was so important to John and he enjoyed the benefit unknown to so many in our contemporary time of having all three of his children and their families live close by.   

John could joke and flirt and prankster in the office.  Yet he had the highest expectation of professionalism and hard work by all who worked under him.  He subscribed to Chief Counsel Marvin Dessler’s approach that you had to be thorough and get it right.  He would think outside the box but you better first show him you knew the box.  You researched back to 1935 for the FAA Act and back to the Civil War, if not earlier, for the IRC.   

John knew the difference between personal and professional.  You could have a “down and dirty” discussion on legal matters and five minutes later be talking about your families.  The line between the two was respected and not crossed.   

His professionalism was unmatched.  Many of you know John’s distasteful view of the Section 5010 credit following his seminal legislative project on All-in Bond.  Yet he treated with respect the lobbyist who got this enacted.  Similarly, with the small producer wine credit, he was respectful in later meetings, though in all of these situations he would have one of us sit in on the meetings as a witness to the discussions.     

For 24 years, I had the benefit of John as my boss and mentor in Counsel’s office.  In 2003, we both woke up one morning to different jobs.  He as Deputy Administrator and me as Chief Counsel.  In moving to the program side of the bureau from the Counsel side, the bureau greatly benefited from his wisdom and guidance.  For me, he respected my role as essentially successor Chief Counsel to him.  Yet I always knew in advisory meetings with him, the bar on my legal advice was high because he had been the experienced Chief Counsel.   

His love and dedication and worry about the future of TTB, I believe kept him in his job as Administrator longer than most others would have stayed.  John came from and understood a Washington, DC that worked better.  His dedication may well have had its toll on him.   

John was a humble and dutiful Roman Catholic.  May God grant him eternal peace and I know that the Lord is saying “well done my good and faithful servant.”   

May those of us who gather next month in Louisville for the NCSLA conference or elsewhere toast him.  His favorite bourbon was Blanton’s (Mark Brown did not pay me to say that) so let us all raise the glass to him.   

John, you are missed.   

No man is an island entirely of himself.  He is piece of the continent, a part of the main.  If a clod of dirt be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less as well as if a promontory were.  Every man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind.  Thus, never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

The Rev. John Donne.  1572 – 1631    

For further information, please contact 

Robert M. Tobiassen, NABI President, or 

Bernadeen Emamali, NABI Vice-President and Corporate Secretary 

at: (202) 393-6224      

www.bevimporters.org



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                     (NABI Press Release No. 2019-2)     

 

National Association of Beverage Importers, Inc.

Washington, DC                                                                               

May 8, 2019

 

 

“Delivering a WORLD of Taste to AMERICA” Continues to Be the Right Thing to Do to Enhance Consumer Choices 

 

Consumer driven choice has been the linchpin of alcohol competition law by Federal and State Governments since the Repeal of Prohibition.  Brands of alcohol beverages on the shelves of “brick and mortar” retail premises, pubs on corners or in malls, restaurant wine lists, and on-line product choice delivered through e-commerce enables consumers to demand and receive what they want rather than receive what the industry believes they should want.  We have a consumer “pull” system and not an industry member “push” system for brand available to consumers.  This is why the recent statements CEO Rick Tigner of the Jackson Family Wines before a meeting of local business and community leaders in Santa Rosa calling for trade barrier protections for domestic wines is surprising and more so troubling.[1]  Ultimately and appropriately, consumer preference dictates the brands offered in the United States marketplace. 

 

NABI President Robert M. Tobiassen said “Without a doubt, consumer choice is unbelievably enhanced by imported distilled spirits, wine, and beer.  Consumers experience the world from the comfort of their homes and favorite drinking establishments.  From the design of labels and bottles to consumer tastings/ samplings at retail establishments, and consumer advertising specialties for take away by the consumer at retail establishments, the brands and varieties of imported distilled spirits, wine, beer educate us about the world.   Pure authenticity telling consumers the story of their drinks.” 

 

More than 12,000 importer basic permit holders from TTB source almost a hundred thousand of brand names for American consumers and their enjoyment.  Trade enhances consumer choice in the United States which is the largest consumer driven marketplace in the world. 

 

Rather than discourage consumers from enjoying imported distilled spirits, wine, and beer, the domestic wineries should up their efforts on exports and enhance its promotional activities to attract consumers.  Creating an artificial and anti-consumer choice domestic demand by restraining imported products is not the answer.  No one wins from the current saber rattling over tariffs by both the United States and European Union.  Global trade benefits all—consumers. growers of grapes, hops and grains, producers, exporters, importers, distributors, and retailers.  It enhances peace and prosperity as was envisioned in the Post-World War II international model of a global trading order.[2] 

 

Mr. Tigner argues that other countries impose tariffs or duties hurting American wines entering those markets so the United States is justified in imposing the same on imported wines.  Why should American consumers pay more for other countries’ bad decisions?  In the United States, we fight these foreign market trade barriers by working to remove them and not by adopting them.   

 

Consumers demand for the availability of imported distilled spirits, wine, and beer is indisputable.   For fiscal year 2018, TTB approved 185,072 certificate of label approvals (COLAs) of which 86,958 represented domestic products and 98,114 represented imported products.  Consumer “pull” in the marketplace caused this.  Clearly consumers are looking for the diversity and variety of imported products to enjoy.  No tariff or non-tariff trade barrier should be erected by the domestic industry to tell consumers that they cannot have what they want at the most competitive pricing.      

 

A rising tide raises all ships—both imports and domestics.  Consumers sail better on this tide of brand choice, variety, and opportunity to experience the enormous diversity of distilled spirits, wine, and beer from both fine American producers and world producers.  Consumers deserve nothing less.   

 

* * * * * * *

 

NABI is the leading trade association for importers of distilled spirits, wine, beer, and low and non-alcoholic beverages in the United States.  Established in 1935, in the wake of the Repeal of Prohibition, NABI has aided its members for eight decades in importing the widest range of products for American consumers to enjoy in a responsible manner.  Recently, NABI has been the strong advocate for the import provisions of the Craft Beverage Modernization Act (CBMA) and worked closely with US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on its implementation.  Ease of administration and protection of the tax revenue are the guideposts of NABI’s efforts on CBMA.  Importer basic permit holders are providing solid, well-paying jobs in every State and jobs that cannot be shipped overseas.  “Delivering a WORLD of taste to AMERICA” is the NABI moto and goal.    

 

For further information, please contact:

 

Robert M. Tobiassen, NABI President, or

Bernadeen Emamali, NABI Vice-President and Corporate Secretary

at: (202) 393-6224        

 

www.bevimporters.org



[1] https://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/industrynews/wineindustry/9556660-181/jackson-family-wines-ceo-calls

[2] John H. Jackson, The World Trade Organization, Constitution and Jurisprudence (Chatham House Papers 1998).