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Scotch whisky tariffs suspended in UK-US trade deal

Scotch whisky tariffs suspended in UK-US trade deal

Photo Credit: BBC News

The Scotch whisky industry has welcomed the suspension of US tariffs on its products after the UK and US resolved a long-running trade row over subsidies given to Airbus and Boeing.

The agreement will see retaliatory tariffs, imposed during the dispute, remain suspended for five years.

Those trade barriers were estimated to have lost the Scotch whisky industry more than £600m in exports.

The industry said it would now seek to rebuild exports to its largest market.

The Scotch whisky industry had been hit with a 25% tariff on single malt by the administration of former US President Donald Trump, after both countries imposed tariffs in the trade row.

Other UK industries including cashmere and construction vehicles were also affected.

Karen Betts, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), said the deal was “very good news for Scotch whisky”, after two “extremely damaging” years.

“What’s critical now is that the governments and aerospace companies on both sides stick to their commitments and work with one another constructively,” Ms Betts said.

Ms Betts said the SWA hoped tariffs on US whiskey coming into the UK and EU as a result of a separate dispute on steel and aluminium could be “resolved quickly”.

Helen Brocklebank, chief executive of Walpole, which represents the likes of Alexander McQueen, Claridge’s and Harrods, said it looked forward to the deal “resulting in the permanent removal of these punitive tariffs, which should never have been inflicted on the luxury sector”.

What is the Boeing-Airbus row about?

The dispute between the US and EU has escalated over many years, with both sides accusing the other of unfairly propping up their flagship planemakers.

In 2019, the World Trade Organization ruled that the EU had illegally provided support to Airbus, clearing the way for the US to respond with tariffs worth up to $7.5bn (£5.4bn) in annual trade.

Roughly one year later, in a parallel case, it ruled that the US benefits to Boeing also violated trade rules, authorising the EU to hit the US with tariffs worth roughly $4bn.

Since then, both sides have taken steps to remove the assistance found at fault.

The US and the EU have taken a much more conciliatory stance in the 17-year dispute since President Biden took over from predecessor Donald Trump, who imposed tariffs on the EU.

UK officials hoped for compromise talks, casting the measure as an example of the benefits to the UK’s ability to act as an independent trading nation following Brexit.

In March, the US dropped tariffs on UK cheese, cashmere, machinery and Scotch whisky, after the UK had dropped its own tariffs on some US goods in January.

The agreement comes as US President Joe Biden tries to bolster support for his more assertive stance towards Russia and China, and move away from Trump-era trade rows.

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International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said the UK-US deal would support jobs across the UK and was “fantastic news for major employers like Scotch whisky and sectors like aerospace”.

She added that it meant the UK could now focus on taking its “trading relationship with the US to the next level”.

United States Trade Representative Katherine Tai said reaching an agreement with the UK was a “great step forward for our special relationship”.

She said the deal was a “model we can build on” to ensure “fair competition and address common challenges from China and other non-market economies”.

Both Boeing and Airbus welcomed the truce. Airbus previously said that the agreement “will provide the basis to create a level-playing field which we have advocated for since the start of this dispute”.

SNP MP David Linden welcomed the removal of tariffs, but argued the UK government had dragged its feet on the issue.

He said Scotch whisky “should never have been caught in the crossfire” of the trade dispute.

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