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Whisky lovers urged to tell MPs of damage caused by US tariffs

By Alan Hendry

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SWA chief executive Karen Betts says tariffs 'are hitting our industry hard'.
SWA chief executive Karen Betts says tariffs 'are hitting our industry hard'.

Members of the public are being urged to write to their MPs highlighting the damage that US tariffs are causing to Scotland's whisky industry.

In a newly launched campaign, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) wants people to ask their Westminster representatives to tell the UK government to “Call Time on Tariffs”.

The trade body says tariffs imposed by the US on imports of single malt Scotch whisky have hit the industry hard in its most valuable export market. A 25 per cent tariff was imposed on single malt in October 2019 and since then exports of all Scotch whisky to the US have fallen by 30 per cent, amounting to over £200 million in lost exports.

The situation is now more urgent than ever, the association warns, with the US government threatening to raise existing tariffs or introduce new ones on blended Scotch and British gin later this summer.

The SWA is asking whisky fans and supporters of the industry throughout the UK to write to their MPs and to take to social media to appeal for decisive action from the UK government to defend Scotch whisky and get tariffs removed as soon as possible.

The association wants the UK government to use the opportunity of the current UK-US free trade agreement negotiations to discuss trade disputes and the removal of tariffs with America – warning that if tariffs on Scotch whisky are not removed this summer, ahead of the US election, the industry will face many more months of losses of sales in the US which will lead to a loss in market share.

This will cause damage to the industry back at home, now also hard-hit by the impact of coronavirus, and could lead to job losses in the industry and the supply chain.

The Scotch whisky and American whiskey industries are united in urging governments on both sides of the Atlantic return to the tariff-free trade that has benefited both industries for more than 25 years.

The Call Time on Tariffs campaign encourages anyone who loves Scotch, its distilleries, its communities and its place in Scotland’s heritage to ask their local MP to press the UK government for the rapid removal of tariffs. A template letter written by the SWA points to the contribution of Scotch whisky to the economy, arguing that imposing tariffs on products unrelated to broader trade disputes is unfair on both producers and consumers.

SWA chief executive Karen Betts said: “Tariffs are a clear and present danger to Scotch whisky. They are hitting our industry hard, with exports to the US now down 30 per cent and producers across the board feeling the pinch – which has only been made worse by the impact of the coronavirus on our global exports and sales.

“The UK government must now work fast with the US government to Call Time on Tariffs. The UK must use the opportunity of ongoing trade talks with the US to work out what each side needs to do to resolve their differences and bring an end to tariffs.

"The damage being inflicted on unrelated sectors such as Scotch, shortbread and cashmere, as well as on American whiskey, is simply unjustifiable. We are paying a heavy price for trade disputes that have nothing to do with us.

“Scotch whisky is a wonderful thing – in its diversity, its heritage, its timelessness and its global appeal. Now we need our supporters to root for us and to tell governments that disputes between aircraft manufacturers should remain between aircraft manufacturers – and that traditional Scottish businesses should be left to thrive and trade in open markets, to the benefit of our businesses, our employees, our communities and our supply chain. So please, write to your MP to urge them to press the UK Government to Call Time on Tariffs.”

Details of the #CallTimeOnTariffs campaign, including a letter template, can be found on the SWA website.

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