25 per cent tariff on Scotch leaves sour taste with whisky firms

Chivas Regal plant at Kilmalid in Dumbarton

 The Chivas site at Kilmalid in Dumbarton. 

By Bill Heaney

Scotch whisky companies in West Dunbartonshire have been sent a sour message by US President Donald Trump.

For all his back-slapping with Boris Johnston and boring messages about the UK being a best friend and valued trading partner, President Trump dropped a 25 per cent tariff on John Barleycorn’s toes.

Sturgeon Docherty Hughes and O'Hara 4
The First Minister with SNP colleagues, Ian Blackford, Martin Docherty-Hughes and Brendan O’Hara

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is far from pleased at this new measure by the Americans.

She told the Scottish Parliament: “The news this morning is profoundly worrying for producers of Scotch whisky and the other Scottish products that are exported to the United States.

“On pressing UK Government ministers, I recently wrote to the Prime Minister highlighting the threat to, in particular, the Scotch whisky industry, and I discussed the issue directly with the Scotch Whisky Association just a couple of weeks ago.

“We will continue to encourage the UK Government to support a negotiated settlement on that, and we support the efforts of the EU to find one.

“It is in nobody’s interest to have such trade wars; everybody ends up being a loser. The sooner that we find a resolution, the better, so I encourage UK ministers to work hard to find one.”

Ms Sturgeon thanked Gail Ross, the SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross for bringing this matter to the floor of the House.

Ms Ross said: “The First Minister will be aware that, as part of the European Union-United States trade dispute, the US has published a list of products from the EU to which tariffs of 25 per cent will apply from 18 October. “The list includes a range of iconic Scottish goods: whisky, cashmere, shortbread, cheese and seafood.

“The financial and economic impact on businesses in constituencies such as mine is likely to be huge.

“Will the First Minister assure Parliament that the Scottish Government will press United Kingdom Government ministers to do all that they can to protect Scotland’s interests?”

Whisky companies in West Dunbartonshire include Auchentoshan, Edrington, Chivas and Loch Lomond.

Its position as “whisky capital of the world” was watered down after Dumbarton Distillery and Strathleven Bond closed with the loss of 3,000 jobs. 

Meanwhile, Jackie Baillie, above left, the MSP for Dumbarton and Lomond, issued the following statement: “The United States Government has today announced plans to place a 25% import tariff on all Single Malt Scotch Whisky and Liqueurs from the UK, beginning on 18 October 2019. This change will have a negative impact on the Scotch Whisky industry as Single Malt Scotch Whisky currently represents over half of the total value of UK products on the US Government tariff list, amounting to over $460 million.

“In 2018, the Scotch Whisky market in the UK exported £1 billion worth of whisky, including from the Chivas distillery in Dumbarton and the Loch Lomond distillery in Alexandria. This has grown rapidly from £280 million in 1994.

“This tariff is expected to have an unhelpful impact on both employment opportunities and investment. The Scotch Whisky industry currently directly employs about 11,000 people in Scotland, and many more indirectly through its supply chain. Over 7,000 of these jobs are in rural areas of Scotland.

She added:  “This unjustified tariff is going to have disappointing consequences for my constituents who are employed by the Scotch Whisky industry and for the wider industry as a whole. It is unacceptable that the livelihoods of working people are being put at risk because of an ill-thought out change in US import policy.

“Along with the GMB trade union, I have repeatedly called on the UK Government to bring forward measures to defend whisky and white spirits manufacturing in the face of Brexit uncertainty and to stand-up to US demands on the removal of the geographical indicator protection for single malt production.

“For decades, the UK and US have worked well together in having a tariff-free trade agreement for spirits and this change will see both of our countries worse off. The UK government must now work with the US to negotiate a settlement in order to protect both our treasured industry and it’s valued workers.”

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