Whisky bosses fear the industry could be left “high and dry” by a UK trade strategy that continues to rely on the European Union to resolve disputes.
Despite numerous ministerial meetings and promises from the top levels of government over the last nine months, the whisky industry is still paying 25% tariffs to export to the US.
Now there are fears the tariffs will roll on into 2021 and beyond as the UK Government is still “lacking a negotiation strategy”.
President Trump imposed the tariffs in October in retaliation to the EU’s illegal subsidies to plane-maker Airbus.
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has mounted a major campaign to put pressure on MPs to lobby ministers to seek a resolution to the issue, but there are fears action won’t be taken in time.
Last week we launched our campaign to #CallTimeOnTariffs!
Lend your voice to help us get tariffs removed on #ScotchWhisky exports to 🇺🇸
— Scotch Whisky Association (@ScotchWhiskySWA) July 19, 2020
Karen Betts, chief executive of the SWA, told us: “We’re pressing the UK Government very hard now to include the removal of tariffs in the ongoing free trade agreement negotiations with the US.
“Up until now the UK Government has not included even a conversation about tariffs in those discussions. We’ve said that they absolutely must do that.
“If we can’t get some movement on tariffs this summer, before the US system shuts down with the presidential election, then we’re likely to have them well into next year — if not for another year. And at that point I think for many companies it will become quite tough.”
We absolutely cannot have Scotch whisky and other affected industries being left high and dry without the UK Government really weighing in on our behalf with the US government and bringing an end to these disputes.”
Ms Betts called on ministers to drop their reliance on the EU to resolve the dispute. She said: “Leaving it to the EU to negotiate on our behalf is no longer a very credible strategy because the EU is no longer going to prioritise UK interests in these trade disputes, so it’s really critical that the UK start talking directly with the US government about it.
“We understand that the US government is very open to that sort of approach and that’s why we’re saying to the UK Government ‘Now you need to put tariffs and trade on the table’.
“What has been lacking is a negotiation strategy to make sure that promises are actually delivered.”
She added: “We absolutely cannot have Scotch whisky and other affected industries being left high and dry without the UK Government really weighing in on our behalf with the US government and bringing an end to these disputes.”