Beverage alcohol is a unique and socially-sensitive product, and accordingly is overseen differently than other consumer products through a state-based, federally-supported regulatory structure established under the 21st Amendment. This regulatory system has effectively managed the beverage alcohol industry while simultaneously fostering the most innovative and dynamic alcohol marketplace in the world, Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA) President and CEO Craig Wolf said today as part of a select panel presentation to Department of Justice Antitrust Division officials led by Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim.
The session was the first of three such panels designed to explore what DOJ described as the relationship between competition and regulation. The first roundtable was created to examine exemptions and immunities from the antitrust laws, and their impact on competition and consumers. It also included a discussion of the appropriate role of the state action doctrine in light of the broader federal policy favoring competition in interstate commerce.
"WSWA strongly believes in the balance between the need to maximize competition in a free market against the need to responsibly regulate a socially sensitive product like beverage alcohol. Our industry has built an unrivaled record of success in promoting responsible sales and consumption while also fostering a thriving market fueled by ever-expanding product varieties, options and choices from across the country and every corner of the globe," Wolf said.
"Our industry is a success story we’re proud to share," he added.
In his remarks, Wolf pointed out that the playing field for beverage alcohol is one of constant competition. "We believe that state-based regulatory systems successfully balance regulation with competition, promoting a dynamic and diverse purchasing environment while protecting citizens from the potentially harmful effects of alcohol."
Wolf also drew a distinction between beverage alcohol and other consumer products, encouraging the Department of Justice "to recognize that beverage alcohol is historically and constitutionally unique, and requires a balancing of interests between competition and public safety." He also reminded those assembled that "the Supreme Court has made it clear that the 21st Amendment grants states virtually complete control over how to structure the liquor distribution system and that a state mandated three-tiered system of distribution is unquestionably legitimate."
Wolf delivered oral remarks to the panel and submitted remarks for the record on behalf of WSWA, a copy of which is available here.
WSWA is the national trade association representing the distribution tier of the wine and spirits industry, dedicated to advancing the interests and independence of distributors and brokers of wine and spirits. Founded in 1943, WSWA has more than 380 member companies in 50 states and the District of Columbia, and its members distribute more than 80 percent of all wine and spirits sold at wholesale in the U.S. Visit www.wswa.org to learn more.