Scotch Whisky Tariffs

International Trade – in the House of Commons on 17th October 2019.

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Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Inclusive Society)

What recent discussions she has had with her US and EU counterparts on the imposition of tariffs on Scotch whisky.

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

We are extremely disappointed that the US has decided to levy tariffs, including on the Scotch whisky industry. I have urged my US counterpart to rethink this, and the Prime Minister has also raised the issue with President Trump.

Photo of Brendan O'Hara Brendan O'Hara Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Inclusive Society)

In the days following this announcement, the Government were asleep at the wheel. We now have only 12 hours before this tariff is implemented. What action will the Secretary of State take in the next 12 hours to delay this? If she cannot delay it, what will she do to mitigate the impact, particularly on small and medium-sized distillers, which rely so heavily on the US market?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

I have been raising this issue with my US counterpart since July, when I first met Bob Lighthizer. I have also raised it with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. I have made it clear to the Americans that it is not helpful in terms of our relationship with them to see these tariffs placed on such an iconic industry, among other industries in the UK.

Photo of David Mundell David Mundell Conservative, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale

I welcome my right hon. Friend’s efforts. In my recent urgent question I asked the Prime Minister to speak to the President, and he did, but I also asked that consideration be given to an announcement that the UK would not levy tariffs on bourbon when we left the EU. Can she tell us something about her consideration of that?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

When we leave the EU, the UK will be responsible for its own tariff policy. At this point we are part of the EU and those overall discussions on tariffs, so we cannot make that type of statement. The point I have been making to the US is that this will not help our relationship. We are also being threatened with £1.2 billion of car tariffs, which could hit the UK on 14 November, and I have raised that with my US counterpart. If the US wants the British public to have a positive view of our trading relationship with it, it needs to reverse these decisions.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Human Rights), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health)

Scotch whisky producers will have difficulties with the tariffs that will fall on their whiskies, but the Republic of Ireland will have no tariffs whatsoever. Echlinville distillery in my constituency is an Irish whiskey producer. What is being done to help Bushmills and Echlinville distilleries, which are very important to jobs in my constituency and across Northern Ireland?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

My understanding is that the Republic of Ireland has been hit with tariffs on other products. These retaliatory tariffs following the Airbus dispute have been levied on a number of European countries. The point I have been making to the Americans is that the UK has complied with the WTO ruling. We are not in breach of that ruling any more, and we have met all the compliance stats.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative, Moray

The Secretary of State is aware that my constituency is severely affected by a number of the tariffs applied by the US. What will she be doing in the next 12 hours to at least delay these tariffs being implemented? If they are, unfortunately, implemented, what can be done to get them removed as quickly as possible?

Photo of Elizabeth Truss Elizabeth Truss The Secretary of State for International Trade and President of the Board of Trade, Minister for Women and Equalities

I am aware of the fantastic whisky distilleries—in fact, I visited Macallan with my hon. Friend very recently—and they are an incredibly important part of the Scottish economy, but also an iconic brand for the UK. I am hosting a roundtable with affected industries this afternoon, and the Chancellor is currently over in the US speaking to his counterpart as well. We are putting as much pressure as we can on the United States on this issue. We will also be looking at measures to help the industry here in the UK.