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Trade dispute

Setback in talks to lift US levy on Scotch whisky

Karen Betts SWA

Karen Betts: disappointed (pic: Terry Murden)

Scotch whisky leaders were left disappointed after the UK and US yesterday failed to reach an agreement that could have lifted trade tariffs.

There were hopes that a deal could have been reached with the outgoing Trump administration.

A levy was imposed in 2019 on imports of single malt whisky and cashmere as part of a wider dispute involving Boeing and Airbus .

Those duties will stay in place while President-elect Joe Biden awaits confirmation of his trade team.

Talks had been under way with outgoing US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.

At the time he said he was hopeful that he and his UK counterpart, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, could “get some kind of an agreement out”.


Last month the UK’s Trade Department announced it would unilaterally break from the EU’s position of levying tariffs on imports of Boeing aeroplanes, after the end of the Brexit transition period.

Ms Truss said it was an attempt to create goodwill to solve the 16-year old dispute.

The UK aerospace industry was unhappy with what it saw as the government reneging on promises made in early 2020 to support Airbus in the dispute.

The US was also looking for tariffs on its exports of bourbon to the UK – part of a separate trade dispute over steel – to be settled.

Ms Truss is expected to meet Katherine Tai, the new US Trade Representative, in Washington DC as soon as she assumes office.

Karen Betts, head of the Scotch Whisky Association, said her industry was “very frustrated” a deal was not reached.

“There is deep disappointment across the Scotch whisky industry that distillers are still paying the price for an aerospace dispute that has nothing to do with us.

“The tariff on single malt Scotch whisky, now in place for 15 months, has caused us to lose over £450m in exports to the US, and our losses continue to mount.”

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