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US whisky tariff decision welcomed

By Alan Beresford

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THE decision by the USA to lift tariffs on Scotch whisky has been welcomed.

After talks with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai at the Department for International Trade’s headquarters in central London, both sides agreed to suspend retaliatory tariffs – imposed as a result of the Airbus-Boeing dispute – for five years and co-operate more closely on tackling unfair trade practices by non-market economies.

The 17-year dispute, the longest-running in the history of the World Trade Organization, has seen damaging retaliatory tariffs levied on products on both sides of the Atlantic due to disagreements over support for large civil aircraft.

The disagreement has hit industries such as cashmere and single-malt Scotch whisky that employ tens of thousands of people across the UK. The Scotch Whisky Association estimates the tariffs have cost the sector hundreds of millions of pounds in lost revenue.

According to global spirits brand, Beam Suntory, losses to Scotch whisky exports have reached £600 million following US tariffs.

News of the deal was welcomed by Moray Conservative MP Douglas Ross and SNP MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast Karen Adam.

Mr Ross said: “It was extremely important to get certainty for the whisky industry particularly given the large numbers we have here in Moray and for Johnstons of Elgin who were also badly affected by these tariffs on cashmere.

“I have been lobbying hard for an end to the tariffs after the UK government originally secured a four-month suspension. It is fantastic news that we will finally see these unfair penalties being suspended for five years and at the same time the governments in the UK and the US continue to address the issues that led to this action being taken.

“These tariffs were crippling for Scotch Whisky producers in Moray and across Scotland as well as firms such as Johnstons of Elgin who were also hit with tariffs on cashmere. For some time, shortbread was also on the list of products receiving these sanctions so with Walkers suffering as well, it was clear just how bad these tariffs were for Moray.

“There has been a huge amount of work done by the UK government to reach this stage so I’m sure the news will be widely welcomed, and I hope our producers will now be able to concentrate their focus on doing what they do best, creating quality produce for export all over the world without penalty.”

While welcoming the suspension of tariffs, Ms Adam criticised the Tory governmenr for "dragging their feet" over the issue. She also praised the cross-party campaign led by the SNP for bringing pressure to bear in finding a solution.

“Scottish whisky is a vital part of our history, culture and economy," Ms Adam continued.

"The Scottish whisky industry should never have been on the table during the Tory trade dispute.

“I’m delighted to [welcome] the removal of whisky tariffs after profound pressure from the SNP to do so.

“I spoke recently in parliament about how Scotland’s economy had dealt with the double whammy of Covid and Brexit, but the whisky industry has been hit with a triple whammy of Covid, Brexit, and tariff restrictions. I will do all I can to support the Scottish whisky industry along my coastal constituency and beyond.”

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