Calls to end UK and US whisky ‘trade war’

By Michelle Perrett

- Last updated on GMT

Union joins calls to remove tariffs affecting US and UK whiskies

Related tags: Drinks

The GMB union is the latest organisation to back calls to end a potential whisk(e)y trade war with the US.

The call from the trade union came as representatives of the UK and US whisk(e)y industries called for the end of tariffs that they claimed were wiping millions of pounds and dollars off export values every month.

The chief executives of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) have called on the UK and US Governments to urgently find a solution to remove all tariffs on distilled spirits.

A 25% tariff was imposed on imports of US whiskey into the EU in June 2018, in response to US tariffs on European steel and aluminium. In October 2019, the US imposed a 25% tariff on imports of single malt Scotch whisky to the US. The tariffs were imposed in response to the  dispute over EU and US subsidies to Airbus and Boeing.

Transatlantic trade dispute

Both organisations claimed that the Scotch and US whisk[e]y industries were now caught in transatlantic trade disputes that were harming investment, productivity, jobs and growth.

Karen Betts, chief executive of the SWA, said: ​“Our message is clear. The UK and US Governments must return quickly to tariff-free trade.​ 

The current disputes about steel and aluminium and aircraft manufacture have nothing to do with us, but the tariffs stemming from them are causing needless damage to our industry on both sides of the Atlantic, and to the livelihoods we support. Constructive negotiations must solve trade disputes, tariffs on whiskies will not​.”

Betts added that it was “critically important​” that the UK and Scottish Governments acted to mitigate the impact of tariffs on Scotch whisky producers, and called for a cut in excise duty in the March Budget.

Growth through zero tariffs 

Chris Swonger, president and CEO of DISCUS, said: ​“Our industries have enjoyed great growth, thanks to the zero-for-zero tariff agreement. Scotch whisky exports to the US have grown 270%, and American whiskey exports to the UK have grown 410% since zero-tariff trade was introduced 25 years ago​.”

The GMB has backed the calls, claiming the US tariffs posed a very real risk to tens of thousands of Scottish jobs. It has also supported calls by the SWA and DISCUS to remove the 25% export tariffs.

Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland organiser, said: “Trade wars have real consequences. Despite our repeated warnings over the past three years, the UK Government has been complacent and has failed to act to defend the Scotch whisky industry​.

With a weak hand in negotiating access to new markets and geographical indicator status as yet insecure, the UK Government needs to step up now to defend Scotch whisky workers whose livelihoods are threatened by UK Government inaction​.”

The call from the trade union came as representatives of the UK and US whisk[e]y industries called for the end of tariffs that they claimed were wiping millions of pounds and dollars off export values every month.

The chief executives of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) have called on the UK and US Governments to urgently find a solution to remove all tariffs on distilled spirits.

A 25% tariff was imposed on imports of US whiskey into the EU in June 2018, in response to US tariffs on European steel and aluminium. In October 2019, the US imposed a 25% tariff on imports of single malt Scotch whisky to the US. The tariffs were imposed in response to the  dispute over EU and US subsidies to Airbus and Boeing.

Both organisations claimed that the Scotch and US whisk[e]y industries were now caught in transatlantic trade disputes that were harming investment, productivity, jobs and growth.

Karen Betts, chief executive of the SWA, said: ​“Our message is clear. The UK and US Governments must return quickly to tariff-free trade.​ 

The current disputes about steel and aluminium and aircraft manufacture have nothing to do with us, but the tariffs stemming from them are causing needless damage to our industry on both sides of the Atlantic, and to the livelihoods we support. Constructive negotiations must solve trade disputes, tariffs on whiskies will not​.”

Betts added that it was “critically important​” that the UK and Scottish Governments acted to mitigate the impact of tariffs on Scotch whisky producers, and called for a cut in excise duty in the March Budget.

Chris Swonger, president and CEO of DISCUS, said: ​“Our industries have enjoyed great growth, thanks to the zero-for-zero tariff agreement. Scotch whisky exports to the US have grown 270%, and American whiskey exports to the UK have grown 410% since zero-tariff trade was introduced 25 years ago​.”

The GMB has backed the calls, claiming theUS tariffs posed a very real risk to tens of thousands of Scottish jobs.​ It has also supported calls by the SWA and DISCUS to remove the 25% export tariffs.

Keir Greenaway, GMB Scotland organiser, said: “Trade wars have real consequences. Despite our repeated warnings over the past three years, the UK Government has been complacent and has failed to act to defend the Scotch whisky industry​.

With a weak hand in negotiating access to new markets and geographical indicator status as yet insecure, the UK Government needs to step up now to defend Scotch whisky workers whose livelihoods are threatened by UK Government inaction​.”

Related topics: Supply Chain, Drinks

Related news

Show more

Follow us

Products

View more

Webinars