Scottish gin producers fear a “hammer blow” to the industry if Donald Trump proceeds with his plan to impose another round of punitive tariffs on British goods.
President Trump’s administration imposed 25% tariffs on British food and drink exports in October as retaliation for the European Union’s illegal subsidies to plane-maker Airbus.
The move has rocked the Scotch whisky industry, with US sales down as much as 47% this year.
Now the United States Trade Representative (USTR) is proposing to add gin, vodka and beer to the list of tariffed items due to the continuing stalemate over the issue.
Martin Reid, co-founder of The Gin Cooperative which represents 75 gin producers in Scotland, said: “It will be a hammer blow to the industry. The tariffs will hamper a lot of plans for Scottish gin brands.
“It’s just really sad that people’s livelihoods are being used as a bargaining chip.
“Along with everything that’s happened with Brexit and Covid, there’s probably been an awful lot of opportunities abroad that have either been put on hold or will be cancelled altogether.
“These people have put a lot of time and effort into growing their business, producing fantastic Scottish gin. To now have another worry on top of everything else that’s happening seems very unfair.”
In the last two years the number of Scottish gin producers has rocketed from 150 to more than 400 and around 70% of the UK’s gin is now produced north of the border.
Should the tariffs be extended to other distilled products, it would be very damaging for one of Scotland’s most exciting, innovative and lucrative industries.”
Liam Hughes, chairman of the Scottish Distillers Association (SDA), added: “Scottish distillers are already being hit hard by the Covid-19 crisis with the closure of hospitality markets at home and abroad, and additional trade barriers like those proposed by the USTR would damage the sector even further.
“Scottish gins, vodkas and rums have been growing in popularity over recent years with an explosion of new distilleries and brands entering the market. Many are craft distillers and need support and growing markets to allow them to flourish.
“The United States is a key export market for Scottish products and the tariffs already in place are affecting our whisky industry hard.”
He added: “The extension of the tariffs to include other categories like gin is a retrograde step, particularly when distillers – and indeed businesses from around the world – are already counting the cost of a global pandemic.
“Should the tariffs be extended to other distilled products, it would be very damaging for one of Scotland’s most exciting, innovative and lucrative industries.”
Many in the gin industry, much like the Scotch whisky sector, are now calling on the Treasury to continue with the freeze on spirit duty at the next Budget as a means to offset the cost of the tariffs.