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Irish whiskey body calls for reform of EU trade rules

Certain Irish whiskeys have lost their EU origin status due to new free trade agreements, resulting in tariffs and cross-border challenges, according to a trade group.

Certain Irish whiskeys no longer benefit from having origin status due to new EU free trade agreements

Trade body the Irish Whiskey Association (IWA) will team up with Dairy Industry Ireland and the Dairy Council for Northern Ireland today (14 June) on a joint presentation to the Seanad Brexit Committee.

The presentation will address the challenges faced by Irish whiskey and dairy products in accessing the benefits of EU free trade agreements (FTA) following the UK’s departure from the EU.

Since 1 January 2021, a range of Irish whiskey and Irish dairy products produced in Ireland have lost their EU originating status under all EU trade agreements with markets around the world, according to the trade bodies.

The trade groups said this is due to the rules of origin stated in the FTAs that do not currently recognise inputs or processing from outside of the EU, despite the free movement of goods within the EU under the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol. Northern Ireland (NI) has been included in the designation.

The EU trade agreement impacts Irish whiskey primarily produced in the Republic but containing some inputs from NI – mainly Irish whiskey blended in the south with one of the component parts of the blend being an NI-distilled whiskey.

It also affects Irish whiskey distilled in NI but matured in the Republic, and in some cases, Irish whiskey produced in the Republic but bottled in NI.

As such, these products no longer have access to lower or zero tariffs under certain EU trade agreements with markets around the world. As an example given by the IWA, Irish whiskeys that have lost their EU origin status must pay a tariff of 154 cents per litre in South Africa, whereas those deemed to be of EU origin continue to pay nothing.

‘Strong’ support for Ireland/NI Protocol

The three trade associations will reiterate their ‘strong’ support for the Ireland/NI protocol which protects cross-border supply chains across the island of Ireland from tariffs and checks at the border.

The groups will also note the ‘failure to act on rules of origin effectively’ which has led to ‘difficulty’ for cross-border supply chains when it comes to exporting to certain countries.

The trade bodies previously asked the European Commission to consider new rules of origin in all future EU trade agreements, starting with the Australia deal. It also proposed that it be considered in reviews of existing FTAs.

However, the trade groups said they had received ‘disappointing’ replies from the European Commission, which has also proposed the same rules of origin for the EU-Australia FTA.

According to the trade associations, the Commission has stated that it does not plan to review any existing EU trade agreement on the back of Brexit.

As such, the groups are calling on the Irish government to continue to ‘reform rules of origin and territoriality rules in international trade to protect and facilitate cross-border supply chains on the island of Ireland’.

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