Britain to step up challenge over U.S. whisky tariff

FILE PHOTO: Bottles of single malt scotch whisky are pictured in a shop near Lausanne

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain said it would step up demands for the United States to drop tariffs on goods such as single malt Scotch whisky after the industry warned a decision by Washington to retain the levy was putting its future at risk.

The U.S. government on Wednesday said it would maintain 15% tariffs on Airbus <AIR.PA> aircraft and 25% tariffs on other European goods as part of a long-running trade dispute, although it held off adding some extra tariffs as it had threatened.

British Trade Secretary Liz Truss welcomed the absence of new tariffs, but said she had raised the whisky issue with her U.S. counterpart Robert Lighthizer during talks last week and she would now go further.

“These tariffs damage industry and livelihoods on both sides of the Atlantic and are in nobody’s interests,” she said in a statement on Thursday. “I am therefore stepping up talks with the U.S. to remove them as soon as possible.”

After leaving the European Union earlier this year Britain is trying to tie up swift trade deals with major partners like the United States to capitalise on its new freedom to strike bilateral deals rather than EU-wide ones.

But Britain has still been affected by a decision from Washington to impose tariffs on an array of EU food, wine and spirits in retaliation for EU subsidies on large aircraft.

The Scotch Whisky Association said exports to the U.S. had fallen 30% since the tariff came into force and jobs and the supply chain were at risk.

“It has taken the UK government a full six months after the UK left the EU to start to tackle tariffs directly with the U.S. government, which seems to us inexplicably slow,” Chief Executive Karen Betts said.

She urged London to do more to support the industry.

“Scotch Whisky is a crucial part of Scotland’s economy, employing over 11,000 people and many more than that through our supply chain, in some of the UK’s most productive jobs,” she said.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; editing by Philippa Fletcher)