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Amid new EU warning...

Early US trade talks raise hopes for Scottish exports

James Macsween: new deal with US

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to open trade talks with the US that should include recent tariffs on Scottish exports.

Mr Johnson will head to Washington next month with the US said to be “impatient to get started”. His plans come amid warnings from the Chancellor Sajid Javid that there will be “no alignment” on regulations with the EU.

Mr Johnson is said to have prioritised the US over negotiations with the EU. The Telegraph reports that the UK government is keen to avoid being stifled by Brussels negotiators.

The Scotch Whisky Association last week led a delegation to Washington appealing for a review of the new 25% levies imposed in October as part of a tit-for-tat trade row with the EU over aircraft subsidies.

The US remains the top destination for Scottish goods with £4.3 billion of exports in the year to the end of September. This was an increase of 8% on the previous year, with food and drink accounting for 30% of exports. 

However, the new tariffs have seen some smaller whisky distillers suffer a fall in sales or stop supplying the US market altogether.

Chancellor Sajid Javid has created further alarm among food and drink manufacturers after warning manufacturers that “there will not be alignment” with the EU after Brexit and insisting firms must “adjust” to new regulations.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Mr Javid admitted not all businesses would benefit from Brexit.

“There will not be alignment, we will not be a ruletaker, we will not be in the single market and we will not be in the customs union – and we will do this by the end of the year,” he said.

The Food and Drink Federation said it sounded the “death knell” for frictionless trade with the EU and could push up prices.

Tim Rycroft, chief operating officer at the FDF, said: “It will mean businesses will have to adjust to costly new checks, processes and procedures, that will act as a barrier to frictionless trade with the EU and may well result in price rises.”

Mr Javid declined to specify which EU rules he wanted to drop. However, he said he is aiming to roughly double Britain’s underlying rate of economic growth after it leaves the EU.

John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor, said: “Tory promises of frictionless trade post Brexit prior to the election have now been exposed as not being worth the paper they were written on.”

Alison Thewliss MP, the SNP’s Shadow Chancellor, said:“The UK has not even left the EU and already the Tories are championing a devastating deal that will be a race to the bottom in standards – rolling back on vital protections and putting environmental standards, food protection, workers’ rights, and financial regulation under threat. “

But Dame Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI Director-General, said: “Business welcomes the Chancellor’s ambitious vision for the economy and recognises there are areas where the UK can benefit from its future right to diverge from EU regulation. However we urge government not to treat this right as an obligation to diverge.  

Carolyn Fairbairn

Dame Carolyn Fairbairn: the UK can benefit from its future right to diverge (pic: Terry Murden)

“For some firms, divergence brings value, but for many others, alignment supports jobs and competitiveness – particularly in some of the most deprived regions of the UK. Business stands ready to work with government to help ensure the right trade-offs are made.” 

Some food firms continue to make progress in the US with one of Scotland’s oldest manufacturers selling into the market for the first time in half a century.

Macsween of Edinburgh has launched its vegetarian haggis in time for Burns Night, marking the company’s first export to the US since 1971.

Traditional haggis continues to be banned in the US so Macsween decided to export its vegetarian version.

This is a huge milestone for Macsween to be expanding internationally

– James Macsween

Branded in the US as “Scottish Veggie Crumble”, Macsween’s haggis is available in 14 Fairway Market stores across New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

James Macsween, managing director, said: “We are delighted to be exporting again to the USA after 49 years. 

“This is a huge milestone for Macsween to be expanding internationally and leading the way in plant-based food exports. 

“My grandfather, Charlie, would be very proud to see how far we’ve come from his original butcher’s shop in Bruntsfield which he opened back in 1953. My father John Macsween would also be proud as he invented the world’s first vegetarian haggis in 1984.”

Macsween has already sent 360 cases of “Scottish Veggie Crumble” to the US this month, and the iconic haggis producer is currently in the process of appointing a sales agent in the US to support its international expansion.

International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss said: “It’s great to see Macsween enter the US market for the first time, giving Scots in America a taste of home this Burns Night.

“The US is the second biggest export market for Scotland, and a new free trade agreement will make it easier for businesses to sell their goods in the US, which will encourage growth and create jobs for people in Scotland.”

In 2017, Macsween made history when it became the first company to export haggis to Canada since 1971, after developing a new recipe that meets the country’s food safety regulations.

Comment: Javid’s Brexit comments should prepare us, not scare us

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