Makers of Scotch whisky have blasted the UK government for not acting fast remove to try and remove heavy tariffs on imports of the spirit by authorities in the US.
The Stoch Whisky Association (SWA) said in a statement on Wednesday that it was disappointed that the US had maintained its 25% tariff on single malt Scotch imports, which it said is “inflicting huge damage” on the sector, saying exports to the US have fallen 30% since the tariff came into effect last October and the industry is now facing a £300mln loss.
“These losses relate only to tariffs – the impact of [coronavirus] has been serious and has compounded what is now a very serious situation for Scotch Whisky, with some brands forced out of the market and jobs in the industry and our supply chain now at risk”, said SWA chief executive Karen Betts.
“The UK government must accelerate negotiations to bring an end to tariffs between the UK and US before preparations for November’s Presidential election bring talks to a halt. It has taken the UK government a full six months after the UK left the EU to start to tackle tariffs directly with the US government, which seems to us inexplicably slow”, she added.
Betts continued, saying the UK government should focus on resolving its share of the ongoing dispute between the US and the EU over aircraft makers Boeing and Airbus, as well as disagreements on steel and aluminium trade.
“Negotiations on a free trade agreement with the US will not solve tariffs and will not be credible while they remain in place. While we welcomed International Trade Secretary Liz Truss’ visit to the US last week, to talk directly to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, it was clearly too little, too late”, she said.
Meanwhile, the SWA said Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak and Prime Minister Boris Johnson “must step in” to mitigate damage to the sector.
“Scotch Whisky is a crucial part of Scotland’s economy, employing over 11,000 people and many more than that through our supply chain, in some of the UK’s most productive jobs.
The support promised to date – £500,000 of export promotion – is woefully inadequate compared to the support offered by the French and US governments to their national industries that have been targeted by tariffs”, the SWA said, adding that the government should “at least” commit to a cut to alcohol duty in the upcoming Autumn Budget.