Joe Biden's suspension of Scotch whisky tariffs is a sign of goodwill worth hundreds of millions of pounds – Scotsman comment

Given Donald Trump’s mother was born Mary MacLeod on Lewis and his business interests include Ayrshire and Aberdeenshire golf courses, one might have thought the former US President would have been a friend to Scotland.

US President Joe Biden has given Scotland's economy a huge boost by scrapping Donald Trump's tariff on Scotch whisky (Picture: Alex Wong/Getty Images)
US President Joe Biden has given Scotland's economy a huge boost by scrapping Donald Trump's tariff on Scotch whisky (Picture: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

However, amid a trade dispute between the US and EU over subsidies given by Brussels to aircraft maker Airbus, Trump decided to impose a 25 per cent tariff on Scotch whisky. The result was lost sales totalling a staggering £500 million.

Given the tariffs were imposed a few months before Brexit, it seemed harsh to single out Scottish produce and even more so to continue them after the UK had left the EU, even if Britain had legacy issues in the dispute.

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Just over a month after he replaced Trump in the White House, Joe Biden’s administration has now suspended tariffs on whisky and other goods including cheese, cashmere and machinery while negotiations take place about a long-term settlement.

Karen Betts, of the Scotch Whisky Association, described the news as “fabulous”, saying the industry was “breathing a sigh of relief” that it was no longer being made to suffer because of a “transatlantic trade dispute that had nothing to do with us”.

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The new ‘leader of the free world’ is already having real and significant benefits to Scotland’s economy.

It also bodes well for the vital negotiations over a much-needed US-UK trade deal. This is a sign of goodwill from Washington that the UK should try to reciprocate in order to strengthen what remains of our ‘special relationship’ with the US.

Given any trade deal may get into politically difficult issues – for example, US imports of chlorinated chicken and private firms involvement in the NHS – Britain needs to cultivate as friendly an atmosphere for the talks as possible.

Just as Hollywood films and American pop music act as soft power for the US, whisky is one of Scotland’s finest cultural ambassadors. The expected increased sales in the US should help boost our profile across the pond, with knock-on effects for other goods and, potentially, numbers of American tourists in future.

So, we should raise a dram to Joe Biden and thank our lucky stars that a grown-up is back in the White House.

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