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WSTA urges end of American whiskey tariff

The Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has requested the removal of the UK’s ‘damaging’ 25% tariff on US whiskey.

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The imposition of 25% tariffs on US whiskey ended a 25-year streak of ‘zero for zero’ tax trade between the EU and US

In June 2018, the EU imposed retaliatory tariffs on US imports, including American whiskey, following former president Donald Trump’s decision to put duties on European aluminium and steel.

As a result, American whiskeys have been subject to an additional tariff of 25%. After leaving the EU, the UK has maintained the tariff.

The initial implementation of the 25% tariff by the EU put an end to 25 years of tariff-free spirits trade with the US.

The WSTA is calling for a return to the historic ‘zero for zero’ tariff deal, as the imposition of the 25% tariff on US whiskeys has had a ‘seismic impact on [the] wine and spirit industry, and resulted in huge declines in trade with [its] most significant trade partner’.

Miles Beale, chief executive of WSTA, said: “This government is a strong proponent of free trade around the world. The next step to take is to remove US wines and spirits from all current and future trade disputes.

“US whiskeys have paid more than their fair share of tariff, and in a year when the hospitality industry has seen significant closures, it’s time we got back to trade and not tariffs with our close friends across the pond.”

The WSTA represents over 300 companies producing, importing, exporting, transporting and selling wines and spirits in the UK.

It reports that the retaliatory tariffs on American whiskey have cost UK importers an additional £55m (US$75.7m).

‘Punishing tariff regime’

There is also concern the UK government will extend the ‘punishing tariff regime’ to target wines.

US wines reportedly make up one in 10 bottles in the UK market. The trade association expressed fears of job losses, a fall in exchequer revenue and loss to the UK wine consumer if tariffs touched wines.

Beale added: “The WSTA supports the removal of tariffs on all wines and spirits with immediate effect.”

Towards the end of May, the UK government started a six-week consultation on US tariffs, which could remove duties on American whiskey.

Last month, The Spirits Business spoke with US whiskey producers about the tariffs and explored developments in the situation.

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