UK and US trade bodies call for end to whisky tariffs

Scotch whisky industry representatives have teamed up with their US counterparts to call for end to tariffs on exports.

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (Discus) want the UK and US Governments to remove the 25% export tariffs on their whiskies.

SWA chief executive Karen Betts warned £100 million of Scotch whisky exports could be lost over the year unless the restrictions are lifted.

A 25% tariff was imposed on imports of US whiskey into the EU in June 2018, in response to US tariffs on European steel and aluminium.

Last October, the US imposed a 25% duty on Scotch whisky and liqueurs as part of a long-running dispute over aircraft subsidies.

Ms Betts said: “Our message is clear – the UK and US Governments must return quickly to tariff-free trade.

“The current disputes about steel and aluminium and aircraft manufacture have nothing to do with us but the tariffs stemming from them are causing needless damage to our industry on both sides of the Atlantic, and to the livelihoods we support.

“Constructive negotiations must solve trade disputes, tariffs on whiskies will not.

“Exports each way are markedly down and if these falls are maintained over the year around £100 million is likely to be lost in Scotch whisky exports.”

She said many smaller Scotch whisky firms are questioning how they can continue exporting to the US, whether they can develop alternative markets and, if not, how their businesses will cope.

Speaking at a Scotch whisky reception hosted by Scottish Secretary Alister Jack at Dover House in London, she called on the UK and Scottish Governments to take mitigating action until the dispute is resolved and to cut excise duty in the forthcoming Budget.

Chris Swonger, Discus president, said: “Our industries have enjoyed great growth thanks to the zero-for-zero tariff agreement.

“Scotch Whisky exports to the US have grown 270%, and American whiskey exports to the UK have grown 410% since zero-tariff trade was introduced 25 years ago.

“We need to get back to zero-tariff trade which benefited distillers on both sides of the Atlantic so our industries can go back to doing what we do best – distilling amazing whiskeys and sharing them with the world.”

Ms Betts recently travelled to Washington DC to meet senior figures from the US Department of Trade, amid concerns tariffs on single malts could increase.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already vowed to remove tariffs on US whiskey once the UK leaves the EU.

Mr Jack said: “These tariffs are not in the interests of the UK, EU or US.

“The UK Government has raised the issue at the highest levels of the US administration, including with the president, and we are working hard to support a negotiated settlement.

“Scotch whisky is a global success story and for the good of the communities and businesses that rely on this iconic industry, we will continue to do everything we can to protect it.”