The US government has announced a 25% tariff on imports of Scottish and Irish whiskies, French wine and a range of other food and dairy products from Europe.
The duty is part of measures being imposed in retaliation against EU subsidies given to Airbus. Earlier this week, the US won $7.5 billion – the largest arbitration award in World Trade Organization history – in its dispute with the EU over subsidies to Airbus.
Taking effect from 18 October, the tariffs will be applied to a range of imports from EU member states, with the bulk applied to imports from France, Germany, Spain, and the UK.
The US Trade Representative’s office released a list of hundreds of goods that will be affected, including olive oil from Spain and a range of cheeses from across the EU. The office said it “will continually re-evaluate” the tariffs based on discussions with the EU.
Karen Betts, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, said she is “very disappointed” with the announcement and called for action to be taken to ensure the tariffs are not implemented.
“Despite the fact that this dispute is about aircraft subsidies, our sector has been hit hard, with single malt Scotch whisky representing over half of the total value of UK products on the US government tariff list (amounting to over $460 million),” she said.
“The tariff will undoubtedly damage the Scotch whisky sector. The US is our largest and most valuable single market, and over £1 billion of Scotch whisky was exported there last year. The tariff will put our competitiveness and Scotch whisky’s market share at risk. We are also concerned that it will disproportionately impact smaller producers.”
She added: “We believe it is imperative that the EU and US now take urgent action to de-escalate the trade disputes that have given rise to these tariffs, to ensure that these latest tariffs are not implemented on 18 October, and to ensure that other tariffs – including on the export of American whiskey to the EU – are removed quickly.”
SpiritsEurope, the trade organisation for spirits producers in the EU, called for a solution to de-escalate the situation.
“As a totally unrelated sector, it is unacceptable for the spirits producers having to pay the price for a dispute that is essentially about civil aircraft subsidies,” said Ulrich Adam, SpiritsEurope director general.
“It is particularly irritating to see that unrelated sectors like ours will be hit by an extra 25% tariffs when the sector at stake will only be imposed a 10% rate.
“Most importantly, for the last 18 months, we have recurrently underlined that imposing tariffs on spirits harms consumers and producers on both sides of the Atlantic alike. The success of the spirits sector in the United States and in the European Union is mutually reinforcing. Indeed, many of our European producers operate distilleries and production sites in the US, while many American producers also own distilleries in Europe.”
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