EU support for Irish drinks sector ‘critical’ to future growth

16th May, 2019 by Nicola Carruthers

The Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) is calling on Irish candidates for European parliament to support the ratification of EU free trade deals.

US tariffs would have a “devastating effect” on the Irish drinks industry, the AFBI has warned

US tariffs would have a “devastating effect” on the Irish drinks industry, the AFBI has warned

Ahead of the 2019 European parliament elections in Ireland next Friday (24 May), the AFBI is highlighting the importance in promoting free trade, which would support the drinks industry and in turn Irish jobs and farmers.

EU trade agreements have already been agreed for Canada and Japan, with the parliament expected to consider deals with Vietnam, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and possibly the US.

The ABFI has also emphasised the importance of reducing EU-US trade disputes and removing EU tariffs on US whiskeys.

US president Donald Trump locked the US in numerous trade wars last year as a result of implementing 25% and 10% import tariffs on steel and aluminium respectively, effective 1 June 2018. The tariff is set to double to 50% in June 2021.

The US is the largest export for Irish whiskey and Irish cream liqueurs. The AFBI say that the US tariffs would have a “devastating effect” on the sector.

The AFBI warned that there “remains a real and substantial risk that EU spirits could be hit by retaliatory tariffs”, while EU liqueurs could witness a separate retaliatory act as a result of a dispute over subsidies for aircraft manufacturers.

Patricia Callan, director of ABFI, said: “Ireland’s drinks industry is not only significant in the national context, supporting over 90,000 jobs, but is also hugely important to the EU economy.

“Exports from the industry are worth €1.44 billion (US$1.61bn) to over 140 markets worldwide. Three of the EU’s top five export categories for spirits are Irish whiskey and Irish cream liqueur. They will represent two of the top three after Brexit.

“EU support for Ireland’s drinks industry, facilitated by our MEPs, is critical to delivering future export growth, particularly as we continue to face a period of great uncertainty.

“By backing free trade our new MEPs help to deliver a real return to the Irish economy. However, consequently, the Irish economic model will suffer if MEPs reject future trade agreements.

“ABFI has also called on future Irish MEPs to support equality in laws and funding to all drinks categories. At present, beer and wine often receive preferential treatment over spirits and cider.

“For example, under EU excise laws, small breweries can qualify for excise relief, but small distilleries and cider producers, which are also hugely important to our industry, cannot.”

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