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SWA in crisis meeting with govt as tariff deadline looms

Published:  17 October, 2019

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) is to meet secretary of state for trade Liz Truss later today to demand government action on the threatened US tariffs on Scotch.

The import tariffs, which are scheduled to be imposed from tomorrow, will slap 25% on the cost of a bottle of Scottish whisky in the US.

Truss is holding a round-table discussion of the threat with representatives of those industries affected, Scottish newspaper the Press and Journal is reporting.

Last week, Scottish MPs from across the parties raised the issue in the House of Commons, with David Mundell, MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, tabling an urgent question and warning that over 3,000 jobs could be at risk.

Graeme Littlejohn, SWA director of strategy and communications, said: “The 25% tariff on single malt Scotch whisky threatens Scotland’s national drink and the investment that the industry makes in communities across the country.

“We welcome the roundtable with the Trade Secretary so we can once again underline the damage tariffs will have on Scotch Whisky.

“Scotch whisky has to shoulder 62% of the whole UK tariff burden.

“It is vital that this discussion is the beginning of a concerted UK government strategy to use all possible levers to remove the tariffs in the US and to support the industry here at home.”

Some 11,000 people are employed directly in the whisky industry in Scotland. Exports of Scotch to the US totalled more than £1bn last year, equivalent to four bottles every second.

Earlier this month the WTO ruled that the US could impose up to £6.1bn of tariffs on EU goods as part of the long-running dispute with regard to state subsidies for aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing.

The import tariffs cover a wide range of food and drink products from across the EU, including French cheese and wine, as well as other items ranging from clothing and industrial ovens.

In related news, the Financial Times is reporting that a number of distilleries are using air freight to get as much whisky as possible into the US ahead of the tariff deadline.

The weight of the bottles usually makes the cost of shipping by air, as opposed to sea, prohibitively expensive, adding around 10% to the overall cost.

Transatlantic whisky shipments by sea have also been expanded, with volumes up by around 25% month on month, the paper reports.