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The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has criticised the UK Government for being too slow to seek talks with the US over tariffs as the Trump administration decided to maintain a 25% levy.

Late on Wednesday 12 August, the US announced it would continue to impose increased tariffs on a range of European exports amid a row over Airbus subsidies.

The SWA, whose members made more than £1 billion of sales in the US last year, urged the UK to seek a resolution before the US presidential election puts talks on hold.

SWA chief executive Karen Betts said:

“It’s deeply disappointing to see that the 25% tariff on single malt Scotch whisky exports to the US has been retained by its Government.

"The tariff is inflicting huge damage on Scotch whisky, with exports to the US down 30% since the tariff came into effect and the industry grappling with losses now totalling around £300 million.

"These losses relate only to tariffs. The impact of Covid-19 has been serious and 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.

“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 raise tariffs directly with the US Government, which seems to us inexplicably slow.

"The UK government must now focus its energy on developing a clear strategy for settling the UK share of the Airbus/Boeing and steel and aluminium disputes with the US, rather than looking to the EU to do this for us.”

Patricia Gibson MP added:

"Negotiations on a free trade agreement with the US will not resolve the tariff issue and will not be credible while they remain in place. While International Trade Secretary Liz Truss visited the US last week, to talk directly to US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, it was clearly too little, too late.

“The Prime Minister and Chancellor must step in to ensure that the damage to Scotland’s iconic whisky industry is, mitigated. Scotch whisky is a crucial part of Scotland’s economy, employing over 11,000 people, including in my own constituency where we have an established distillery in Lochranza and a fledgling one at Lagg. There are many more people employed in the supply chain. The Scotch whisky industry is suffering collateral damage in an argument over Airbus subsidies which has nothing to do with them.

"The support promised by UK Ministers 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 targeted by tariffs. At the very least, the Chancellor must commit to a duty cut in the Autumn Budget.”

The US imposed 25% tariffs on 18 October 2019 after the World Trade Organisation ruled cut price loans from France and Spain to Airbus were illegal. The US says the subsidies give it an unfair advantage over American firm Boeing. Tariffs on Airbus itself stand at 15%.


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