UK tells Donald Trump there will be ‘no winners’ in US-EU trade war
The penalties could take effect from October 18 and include a 25% tariff on single malt Scotch whisky.
Britain has warned Donald Trump to “think again” about entering a trade war which risks harming “the little guy and the little business” most.
International trade minister Conor Burns insisted there “would be no winners” in such a scenario and outlined how the UK Government has been in contact with senior figures in Washington, including US Vice President Mike Pence.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) 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.
These could take effect from October 18 and include a 25% tariff on single malt Scotch whisky, which the UK exports £1 billion worth to the US each year.
Conservative former Scottish secretary David Mundell said 3,000 jobs could be at risk in the industry if the tariffs go ahead as planned, while other MPs raised concerns about other tariffs connected to textiles and biscuits.
Mr Burns urged MPs to contact US ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson, telling the Commons: “He’s known to be very close to President Trump and I’d encourage all honourable and right honourable members across the House to contact the American ambassador, and make him aware of the strength of feeling on this subject in this House and across the country.”
SNP MP Brendan O’Hara (Argyll and Bute) said he was in no doubt the tariffs will have a “hugely negative” impact on one of Scotland’s most important and growing industries.
He added: “The Scotch whisky industry employs 11,000 people directly so I encourage UK ministers to do everything they can to resolve this as quickly as possible because it is in no-one’s interests to have a trade war like this, one where everybody will almost inevitably end up on the losing side while jobs, confidence and future investment will be all affected.”
Mr Burns replied: “A trade war would be in no-one’s interests, there would be no winners in a trade war.
“The thing that agitates and upsets us most about this, as I said earlier, is it is those who have done absolutely nothing in the Airbus-Boeing dispute… who will now be hurt and harmed if these tariffs were to come into place.”
Asking an urgent question in the Commons, Mr Mundell earlier said: “It was my duty to welcome President Trump to Scotland last year and during the course of that event he told me that ‘he loved Scotland’.
“Now I’m sure if the Prime Minister was able to convey directly to President Trump the damage that these proposals will do to Scotland, particularly rural Scotland, that could have an impact.”
Responding, Mr Burns said: “The tariffs are not in place, they have got 10 days as my right honourable friend said. We would urge the United States to think again.
“These tariffs are in no-one’s interest. The President of the United States prides himself on being the champion of the little guy and the little business.
“Well, it’s the little guy and the little business who will be harmed most directly if these tariffs come into play.”
For Labour, shadow international trade secretary Barry Gardiner said: “The impact of these tariff measures on our biggest markets, particularly for products like Scotch Whisky, is enormous and no amount of new trade agreements overseas could mitigate that imminent threat.”
Conservative Douglas Ross said his Moray constituency will be “severely affected” by the US announcements due to its whisky and biscuit manufacturers.
He added: “A zero tariff on bourbon and American whisky when we leave the European Union would send the strongest possible message to the US that the UK is on their side and they should take away these tariffs.”
SNP MP Drew Hendry (Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey) asked if UK ministers had been in touch with their US counterparts since last Thursday.
Mr Burns responded: “On this, I can only speak for myself. Having returned to the United Kingdom from Vietnam last night I have not.
“I have not had a direct conversation because I was in Vietnam and I went to the office today, I went to the office today and we have been reaching out and having those conversations.
“And I say to honourable members opposite the absolute determination that we must all share is to try and protect the Scotch Whisky sector and try and persuade the United States not to implement these tariffs in 10 days’ time.
“And that will be my focus, that will be my focus for the rest of this week.”