Johnson in plea to Trump over tariffs on whisky
Exports: Bid to help drink and clothing sales to US
Boris Johnson has urged President Donald Trump to lift punitive tariffs on whisky and clothing after industry bosses said they were starting to “feel the strain”.
The US imposed 25% tariffs on British food and drink exports last month as retaliation for the EU’s illegal subsidies to planemaker Airbus.
The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) has said the industry risks losing as much as 20% of its sales to the US, worth £1 billion, in the next 12 months.
Mr Johnson raised the matter in a call with the president on Tuesday night.
A Downing Street source said: “The prime minister urged the president to lift tariffs on goods including Scotch whisky and, ahead of a US decision on additional tariffs, urged him not to impose tariffs on car exports.”
The talks came as speculation grew that Mr Johnson would announce a spirit duty review while visiting a distillery in Moray today to try to offset the costs of the tariffs.
Karen Betts, chief executive of the SWA, said: “It’s very important the 25% tariff is removed, not least since Scotch whisky is paying 62% of the UK’s tariff liability – a bill that is not ours to pay.
“We have been clear that tariffs must be lifted before US-UK negotiations begin on a trade deal. Not to do so would sell our industry short.
“Meantime, the Scotch whisky industry and its supply chain is feeling the strain.
“Smaller producers, many of whom only produce single malt, are being hit the hardest.
“Removal of these tariffs is our clear priority.”
Simon Cotton, Johnstons of Elgin’s chief executive, has seen his firm’s cashmere sales impacted.
“We are currently absorbing 25% tariff on sales of knitwear to the US,” he said.
“Obviously this is not something that we can continue indefinitely.”
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead said: “The main concern is the significant impact on the smaller distilleries and on those who rely on the US market.
“They are very fearful for their future because they either simply pass the tariff on to the price of a bottle and lose customers and competitiveness or they absorb it and lose profit.”
PRESSURE: Single malt whisky sold to the United States now attracts a 25% tariff as Donald Trump ramps up a trade war with the EU