'Golden opportunity'

Whisky tax hope as UK-India trade talks open

Mark Kent: opening the market

A free trade agreement between the UK and India would offer a ‘golden opportunity’ to cut the high tariff imposed on Scotch whisky, says the sector’s trade body.

UK International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan will meet Indian minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal, in New Delhi on Thursday to formally start talks on a deal.    

India is one of the world’s biggest and fastest-growing economies and UK businesses hope to be at the front of the queue to supply its growing middle class.

Among a range of targets, the UK Government wants to see a reduction in duties of up to 150% on whisky exports, offering a boost to distilleries and the whole spirits industry.

Mark Kent, newly-appointed chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said: “Launching UK/India trade talks offers a golden opportunity to reach an ambitious tariff reduction in an early harvest deal that could grow Scotch Whisky exports to India by £1 billion over five years.

“Tackling the tariff and State level regulatory issues would open the market up to smaller producers who are effectively locked out by the substantial barriers to trade.

“Improved market access for Scotch would enable an increasing number of Indian consumers to enjoy our premium product. It would also be good for our industry and Indian government tax revenues – a win-win for all.”

UK Government Minister for Scotland Malcolm Offord said: “On a recent visit to Mumbai, I saw first-hand how Scotland’s distilleries would benefit from the removal of tariffs as high as 150% on whisky. Our thriving services sector would also receive a welcome boost.”

A deal has the potential to almost double UK exports to India, boosting total trade by as much as £28 billion a year by 2035, and increasing wages across the UK by up to £3 billion. Investment from Indian companies already supports 95,000 jobs across the UK.

Lord Offord
Malcolm Offord speaking in India

The UK government sees a deal with India as a big step to refocus trade on the Indo-Pacific region, home to half of the world’s population and 50% of global economic growth.

A new economic partnership with India, alongside UK membership of the Asia-Pacific trading bloc, CPTPP, will create a pillar in the region supporting free and fair trade. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “A trade deal with India’s booming economy offers huge benefits for British businesses, workers and consumers.”

International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan added: “By 2050 India will be the world’s third largest economy with a middle class of almost 250 million shoppers.

“We want to unlock this huge new market for our great British producers and manufacturers across numerous industries from food and drink to services and automotive. 

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