Food & Drinks

U.S. Lifts Scotch Whisky Tariffs, but European Levies on American Whiskey Remain

A joint statement from the U.S. and U.K. governments on Thursday announced a four-month suspension on tariffs relating to a long-standing Boeing and Airbus dispute. Effective immediately, the move will temporarily lift the 25 percent duty on all imported Scotch, among other consumer goods.

“The United Kingdom and the United States are undertaking a four-month tariff suspension to ease the burden on industry and take a bold, joint step towards resolving the longest-running disputes at the World Trade Organization,” the nations said in the statement.

U.S. drinkers may soon reap the benefits of the news, which could ease prices on imported whiskey. Karen Betts, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), described the announcement as “fabulous news,” and said everyone in the Scotch whisky industry is “breathing a huge sigh of relief.”

In the 16 months that the tariffs have been in place, Scotch whisky exports to the U.S. dropped 35 percent, costing companies more than £500 million (roughly $700 million), according to the SWA.

For U.S. distillers, however, similar relief is yet to arrive. A 25 percent tariff on American whiskey, stemming from a separate trade dispute, remains in place in the U.K. and across the EU.

Last Tuesday, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association (KDA) announced that American whiskey exports had fallen 35 percent since 2018. Exports to the EU, a market which included the U.K. until this January, dropped 48 percent in that time. Meanwhile, exports to the U.K., specifically, declined by 53 percent, from $150 to $71 million.

Eric Gregory, president of the KDA, said the tariffs were having a “devastating impact” on American whiskey producers.

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The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS) described Thursday’s announcement as a positive development, but the organization is disappointed that the U.K. has not responded in kind.

“We urge the U.S. and U.K. to build on this positive momentum by negotiating an agreement to simultaneously eliminate retaliatory tariffs on all distilled spirits, which will benefit hospitality businesses on both sides of the Atlantic that are struggling to recover and rebuild from the global pandemic,” DISCUS said in a statement.


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