Tariffs resulting from a US-EU trade dispute on goods including Scotch whisky and US bourbon should be removed to show “goodwill” as the UK seeks a trade deal with America, MPs have been told.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said she pressed US trade representative Robert Lighthizer last week for an “urgent settlement” ahead of trade talks.
The World Trade Organisation last year gave the US the green light to impose tariffs on up to 7.5 billion dollars (£6.1 billion) of goods from the European Union as retaliation for illegal subsidies the bloc gave to plane-maker Airbus, and these tariffs will include Scotch whisky.
The EU placed tariffs on US goods, including bourbon whiskey, following the earlier imposition of tariffs on EU steel and aluminium by US President Donald Trump.
Former Scotland secretary David Mundell said the 25% duty applied to Scotch whisky was a “cloud on the horizon” of any UK-US trade talks.
He added: “What confidence can the secretary of state give us that at the end of this process we’ll see no duties on Scotch whisky of any kind in the United States and no duty on on bourbon in the United Kingdom?”
In response, Ms Truss said: “This is a major issue for our excellent Scotch whisky producers and also other producers such as Walkers Shortbread and cashmere producers as well.
“I raised this issue again with (US trade representative) Lighthizer again when I saw him last week.
“I want to see an urgent settlement of the Airbus-Boeing dispute so we can remove these retaliatory tariffs on things like bourbon, Harley-Davidsons and Florida orange juice as well as our excellent products here in the UK.
“And I am urging as an early part of these trade negotiations removal of existing tariffs to show good will towards the negotiations.”
Former international trade secretary Liam Fox said UK exports to the US currently attract £500 million in tariffs.
He added: “The removal of which would be an immediate boost to the UK economy.
“But that the opportunity’s even greater because we’re currently involved in retaliatory tariffs as a result of the EU-US steel dispute and we are subject to tariffs that the US never wanted to apply to the UK.
“And as we separate ourselves from the European Union we can remove ourselves from the ensnarement of that which will enable us to remove many other tariffs which will beneficial to consumers and businesses on both sides of the Atlantic.”