Scotch sector ‘frustrated’ over collapse of UK-US talks

20th January, 2021 by Nicola Carruthers

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has expressed its disappointment over the UK and US’ failure to reach a ‘mini-deal’ that could have removed tariffs on single malts.

US tariffs on exports of single malt Scotch have cost the industry £450m (US$612m) over the last 15 months

Last month, US trade representative Robert Lighthizer indicated that the outgoing US administration could agree a ‘mini-deal’ with the UK, which would ease punitive tariffs on single malt Scotch whisky. At the time, Lighthizer said it was “extremely likely” that the US would agree a free-trade agreement with the UK before long.

The discussions came after the UK government said it would suspend the tariffs that the EU imposed on US$4 billion of US goods as part of the long-running Airbus and Boeing dispute, signalling good news for rum, vodka, brandy and vermouth from the States.

In a statement, the SWA’s chief executive, Karen Betts, said it was disappointing that tariffs remained on the industry.

She said: “There is deep disappointment across the Scotch whisky industry that distillers are still paying the price for an aerospace dispute that has nothing to do with us.

“The deal the UK and US were discussing at the end of the year, but in the end failed to agree, would have removed tariffs on Scotch whisky and other products caught up in this, like cashmere.

“Understandably, our industry is very frustrated it was not concluded. That the Airbus/Boeing dispute continues to cause our industry material damage leaves distilleries in a very serious position.”

The SWA said the US tariffs on exports of single malt Scotch have cost the industry £450m (US$612m) over the last 15 months.

Betts added that the UK’s international trade secretary, Liz Truss, will meet with the new US trade representative, Katherine Tai, once she takes office.

Betts stressed it was “vital” that Truss brought a strong mandate to enable the removal of tariffs.

A spokesperson for the UK Department for International Trade said: “The secretary of state for international trade has stepped up talks with the US to get these unfair tariffs on UK exports removed.

“We want to de-escalate and resolve this dispute so that we can deepen trading ties with the US and move onto the next phase of our trading relationship, to the benefit of UK businesses.

“We look forward to working with the new US administration at the earliest opportunity to find a solution that works for both sides.”

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