Australia trade deal could see whisky tariffs removed, UK Government claims

A UK-Australia trade deal could see whisky tariffs removed, Liz Truss has claimed.

The international trade secretary today vowed to remove the 5 per cent tariff on whisky exports, which makes it more expensive for distilleries to sell overseas.

According to the Scotch Whisky Association, a tariff cut would boost sales and support distillers across Scotland, with the industry supporting more than 10,000 jobs in Scotland and more than 40,000 across the UK.

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Australia is the eighth biggest market for Scotch whisky, accounting for £131 million, with hopes any deal could see that figure rise.

The UK-Australia trade deal could see whisky tariffs removed, the UK Government has claimed.

Ms Truss said: “A UK-Australia trade agreement would be significant for Scotch whisky and the Union.

“Part of the promise of leaving the EU was striking deals with countries well beyond Europe, opening new opportunities for iconic British goods like Scotch overseas.

“I am fighting hard to get these tariffs cut and secure a deal that benefits producers in Scotland and helps the whole of the UK.”

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The minister for exports, Graham Stuart is visiting Glenkinchie Distillery near Edinburgh today to discuss the benefits of a potential Australia deal for the whisky industry.

He said: “From whisky to shortbread, Scotland offers an array of food and drink that many can enjoy and, thanks to the imminent UK-Australia trade deal, more people than ever will be able to do just that.

“As we continue to reduce trade barriers and cut red tape, UK businesses and consumers can be assured that they will benefit from all the trade deals we are signing with countries across the world.

“The 800 Scottish businesses exporting goods to Australia last year are no exception to this and the others that will join them will only further showcase the very best Britain has to offer.”

Welcoming the plans, Karen Bett, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Association, claimed exports to the country had almost doubled over the past decade.

She said: “We’re looking forward to the conclusion of a free trade agreement with Australia, which will benefit Scotch whisky exports, our Australian consumers and which will support free and fair trade.”

However, the Scottish Government has repeatedly raised concerns over the deal, which the First Minister warned would be a "betrayal" of Scottish farmers if import standards do not match those on domestic production.

Nicola Sturgeon also claimed the Scottish Government was being "shut out" of the deal – an assertion rejected by Westminster.

Responding to the UK Government’s claims, the SNP's shadow international trade spokesperson Drew Hendry MP claimed it would not offset the damage caused by Brexit.

He said: "We all want to see more trade. However, the reality is that the Tory government's extreme post-Brexit plans fail Scotland's vital industries.

"Distilleries have told me that they now face a big gap in their exports due to the EU market contracting drastically as a direct result of Brexit and new red tape, and that the loss cannot even come close to being compensated by these deals.

"We have already witnessed our seafood industry being sold out, and we know the devastating impact the proposed Australia deal will have on Scottish farmers and crofters, threatening the viability of Scottish lamb and beef farming and undercutting the sector.”

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