Liz Truss has vowed to consign the “unacceptable and unfair” US whisky tariffs to the “bin of history”, as she accused the European Union of not doing enough to protect British interests.
The trade secretary revealed there would be renewed talks with US officials about exempting Scotch from Washington’s punitive EU-wide tariff schedule “in the coming weeks”.
President Trump imposed 25% tariffs on certain British exports in October as retaliation for the EU’s illegal subsidies to plane-maker Airbus.
The move has rocked Scotch whisky, with US sales down as much as 47% this year at a cost of more than £300 million.
Industry leaders had hoped for a reprieve last week when Trump’s administration met to review the situation, but trade boss Robert Lighthizer concluded “the EU and member states had not taken the actions necessary to come into compliance with WTO decisions” and confirmed the continuation of tariffs for another 180 days.
Ms Truss, writing in the Telegraph, said she was “determined” to resolve the issue.
She said: “American tariffs on Scotch whisky are unacceptable and unfair. I cannot be clearer about that. Whisky is one of our great industries and a jewel in our national crown.
“I am determined to settle the issue and help our struggling producers.
“The government is stepping up talks with the US to try to break the impasse, and will be entering into further discussions with Bob Lighthizer, my opposite number, over the coming weeks.”
She added: “The EU, with its high tariff wall, has failed to stand up for British interests – and Scottish interests in particular – and made little progress towards resolving an issue that should have been sorted years ago.”
Scotch Whisky Association boss Karen Betts accused ministers of being “inexplicably slow” in trying to resolve the dispute last week.
Ms Betts has today welcomed the commitment to resolving the saga, she said: “It’s reassuring to see Liz Truss’s determination to settle the trade disputes at the root of the US tariffs on Scotch whisky quickly.
“The issue for us is now one of time – if tariffs cannot be resolved before the US Presidential election (on November 3), they risk remaining in place well into next year while whoever wins the election puts their team in place in order to restart talks.
“So the secretary of state’s commitment to speed up talks with the US to find a bilateral solution is welcome news.”