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Warning of lost sales

Whisky talks aim to avert further hike in US tariffs

Karen Betts SWA

Karen Betts: ‘a further rise could be devastating’ (pic: Terry Murden)

Whisky industry representatives will hold crunch talks in the US over concerns of a further hike in tariffs on single malts.

The US government imposed a 25% duty on Scotch whisky and liqueurs on 18 October as part of a long-running dispute at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over aircraft subsidies.

Karen Betts, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, will meet US officials in Washington DC to press the industry’s case and express frustration at how it has been dragged into the dispute.

Single malt exports to the US are worth more than £1 billion a year and the country is the industry’s most valuable market.

The SWA says the added costs are putting jobs and investment at risk. Some smaller distillers have scaled back sales to the US and some have stopped altogether.

Mrs Betts told PA news: “There’s real concern about a rise in tariffs on Scotch whisky – a further rise could be devastating to distillers.

“We will speak to the US Government and urge them to lift the tariffs altogether – all the tariffs are doing is damaging the sector on both sides.

“Tariffs on whisky products also has an impact on the American economy.

“Price rises impact sales, which impacts on investment and jobs, and also has an effect on taxes.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already offered to remove tariffs on US whiskey after the UK leaves the EU.

In the meantime, the SWA is calling on the UK Government to support the sector and mitigate the impact.

GMB Scotland Organiser for Whisky & Spirits, Keir Greenaway, said:“This is bad news for the Scottish economy and should also set alarm bells ringing for UK-US trade negotiations post Brexit. 

“This is an uncompromising US administration and there will be no special favours for the so called “special relationship” – it’s no wonder the SWA is in a panic and Scotland should be too.

“For three years GMB Scotland has been calling on the UK Government to bring forward protective measures for our vital whisky and spirits sector but to no avail.

“It needs to intervene now to mitigate the impact of the previous tariff increases but also to tackle the real prospect of more. It also needs to lay down an important marker for future trade deal negotiations.”

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