£1bn whisky exports put ‘at risk’ from trade war
Nicola Sturgeon declared the escalating trade war between the US and the EU a “profoundly worrying” situation for the Scottish whisky industry as she urged the UK government to press for a speedy, negotiated settlement.
Single malt whisky exported from Scotland to the United States is set to be hit by a 25 per cent tariff in a fortnight’s time as part of a raft of measures being imposed by President Donald Trump in retaliation against EU subsidies given to aircraft maker Airbus.
Fears have been raised that the tariffs, which would apply from 18 October, would devastate the industry which, overall, exported £1 billion worth of whisky to the US last year.
Yesterday at First Minister’s Questions Ms Sturgeon said the news was “profoundly worrying” for whisky and other Scottish exports.
She said: “I recently wrote to
the Prime Minister highlighting the threat to the Scottish whisky industry in particular, I discussed the issue directly with the Scotch Whisky Association just a couple of weeks ago, and we will continue to encourage the UK government to support a negotiated settlement to this and we support the efforts of the EU to find that settlement.
“It’s in nobody’s interests to have trade wars like this, everyone ends up being a loser, and the sooner we find a resolution the better and I would encourage UK ministers to work hard to do so.”
However she was later challenged by the Scottish Greens to retaliate against Mr Trump by suspending US military use of publicly-owned Prestwick Airport.
The airport, bought for £1 by the Scottish Government six years ago, has been a source of sustained controversy over its decades-long use by the US military, including “extraordinary rendition” flights by the CIA.
The tariffs are set to be imposed by the US after the World Trade Organisation ruled in May that Europe illegally subsidised planemaker Airbus, which hurt its American competitor Boeing.
The ruling gives the Trump administration the legal right to impose counter-measures on the EU in the form of tariffs, and products targeted include wine,cheeseandolives,which are produced in many countries involved in the Airbus consortium.
Brussels has threatened to retaliate similarly against US goods, but the EU has said it hopes not have to resort to that.
In Scotland, other goods which would be affected include cashmere, cheese and seafood.
UK government minister for Scotland Colin Clark said that resorting to tariffs was not “in the best interests of the UK, EU or US”.
He said: “The whisky industry is a cornerstone of Scotland’s economy, employing around 11,000 people, many in rural areas. The UK government is working closely with the US, EU and European partners to support a negotiated settlement and avoid these tariffs coming into force.”
A Number 10 spokesman said that the UK government was “disappointed” the US had resorted to tariffs, which were “not in anyone’s interests”.
The spokesman added that despite the tariffs affecting Scotch whisky but not Irish whisky, the dispute had “nothing to do with trade discussions” with the US after Brexit. However a spokesman for the First Minister said that the tariffs “undermined the UK government argument that one way to offset the challenge of Brexit would be a very quick, comprehensive, trade deal with the US, it’s clear the US isn’t in a mood to exempt the UK or Scotland from these tariffs.
He added: “This is the hard reality that the US plays hardball on these issues and is not prepared to exclude the UK because of what’s been said between Trump and Johnson. The suggestion of a free trade agreement post-brexit is pretty fatally undermined by what’s happened today.”
0 Nicola Sturgeon says trade wars are in nobody’s interests