Joe Biden: US-UK trade deal ‘next to impossible’ says expert
The 25 percent tariff imposed by the Trump administration on Scotch whisky in October 2019 is part of a long-running trade dispute between the US and European Union over aircraft subsidies and has cost the Scotch whisky industry hundreds of millions of pounds in lost exports. The EU responded to the move from Mr Trump’s administration by slapping tariffs on £3billion of US goods over subsidies given to Boeing. Last month, the UK announced it would suspend those measures following Brexit from January 1, presenting it an olive branch to the US after Brexit in the final days of Mr Trump’s presidency.
Downing Street had hoped the move would help bring the US towards a reasonable settlement over the Airbus-Boeing row, demonstrating the UK is serious about reaching a negotiated outcome.
In the weeks leading up to the end of the President’s first and only term in office, Britain had been offered hope the hefty tariffs might be lifted.
Just before Christmas, Mr Trump’s trade chief Robert Lighthizer revealed the outgoing administration had been negotiating a “mini-deal” with the UK, which could possibly have led to tariffs on single malt being cut.
But hope died earlier this week when Mr Trump left office without lifting the tariffs, leaving it up to new President Joe Biden to make the next move.
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Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer has now launched a scathing attack against Boris Johnson and his Government, warning it was always a “very foolish gamble” to expect Mr Trump to agree a mini UK-US trade deal before leaving office.
He warned the “gamble has very visibly backfired” and with the Scotch whisky industry still facing 25 percent tariffs, the Government has thrown away the main leverage they had to get those tariffs removed, with nothing to show for it in return”.
Writing for Scottish daily newspaper The Herald, Sir Keir said: “On December 7th, Ministers announced that the UK would unilaterally withdraw from the Boeing-Airbus dispute at the end of the Brexit transition period.
“They bet on Trump reciprocating by agreeing a mini UK-US trade deal before leaving office, the central plank of which would be the removal of the 25 per cent whisky tariff.
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“That always looked a very foolish gamble and so it has proven to be.
“Trump has gone, with no deal agreed. The gamble has very visibly backfired.
“The Scotch whisky industry is still facing 25 per cent tariffs yet the Government has thrown away the main leverage they had to get those tariffs removed, with nothing to show for it in return.”
Karen Betts, head of the Scotch Whisky Association, expressed her frustration a deal could not be reached between the UK and US.
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She said: “There is deep disappointment across the Scotch whisky industry that distillers are still paying the price for an aerospace dispute that has nothing to do with us.
“The tariff on single malt Scotch whisky, now in place for 15 months, has caused us to lose over £450m in exports to the US, and our losses continue to mount.”
But Labour leader Sir Keir said that under Mr Biden’s presidency, the UK “has the opportunity to reset our relationship with the United States”, and to “reverse some of the economic damage done by Trump and his administration”.
Sir Keir wrote: “With Joe Biden now in the White House, the United Kingdom has the opportunity to reset our relationship with the United States.
“It is a chance for both nations to work together to reverse some of the economic damage done by Trump and his administration.
“This will take time and it will not be easy. One particularly harmful legacy Trump leaves behind is the punitive tariffs imposed on Scotch whisky and other vital Scottish exports.
“When businesses are working flat out to weather the storm of the coronavirus, the 25% imposed on Scotch whisky and other UK goods was an act of economic and diplomatic vandalism.
“Now, with a new President and a new administration in place, the UK Government must seize this opportunity and appeal to Joe Biden to reverse Trump’s harmful tariffs.”
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