WTO ruling

Whisky exporters fear damaging impact of US tariffs

Karen Betts SWA

Karen Betts: tariffs will be like an instant tax rise (pic: Terry Murden)

Whisky distillers are facing a 25% tariff on exports in a trade battle with the US which an industry leader fears could be hugely damaging.

A ruling by the World Trade Organisation will allow the US to introduce £6.1 billion tariffs on EU goods including aircraft, cheese, clothing and whisky from 18 October.

It is the latest stage in a 15-year battle between the US and the EU over low cost loans which the US claims were illegal subsidies for plane manufacturer Airbus.

The US says Europe’s subsidies to Airbus have seriously injured the US aerospace industry and its workers. It sought tariffs on $11bn of goods, but the WTO cut this to $7.5bn (£6.1bn).

The tariffs will be set at a 10% rate on aircraft and 25% on agricultural and other items and they will mainly affect products from the UK, France, Germany and Spain.

Brussels is expected to retaliate and is awaiting a ruling due next year on what tariffs it can impose against the US in retaliation for US state aid given to Boeing.

Commenting on the US decision, Karen Betts, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: “It is going to hurt. It will be damaging. It is like a very instant and sharp tax rise.

“It will make single malt whisky uncompetitive in the US market and it will start to lose market share.”

She said blended whisky is not affected but “all our companies” will be impacted., particularly small companies that only export single malt whisky to the US.

Single malts account for a third of whisky exports to the US and are the most valuable.

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