The UK should be a “bastion of free trade” and “looking to remove tariffs as far as possible”, the chief executive of the Wine and Spirit Trade Association (WSTA) has encouraged.
Single malt Scotch, single malt Irish whiskey and liqueurs made in the UK have been subject to a 25% import tariff from the US since October last year.
The US introduced the tariffs on these alcoholic beverages, along with many other EU-made goods, in retaliation to an ongoing dispute between the EU and the US regarding aircraft subsidies for plane manufacturer Airbus.
With the UK’s Brexit transition period due to end on 31 December 2020, Beale said it could be an opportunity for the UK to strike a deal with the US to remove these tariffs and that the UK should endeavour to grow its reputation as a free-trading nation.
Beale said: “I don’t expect that [25%] tariff to be removed soon unfortunately, but it’s something we’re pressing very hard for and we’re pressing from every angle.
“We’re still working with colleagues in the EU and obviously looking to government to get that result, that bilateral free trade deal with the US because again, [tariffs are] extremely unhelpful.
“It’s more likely the UK has an opportunity to remove those tariffs for its products in a trade deal with the US, but trade deals on average take seven to eight years.
“One between the UK and US would be huge, but I suspect there’s good will for it, so it may be done a lot more quickly than that. But that’s still not going to be done by the 1st January next year, certainly not under the current climate.”
“There’s a real opportunity here [when the transition period ends] for the UK to set itself up as being very pro-free trade. That’s not as in Vogue as it was a decade ago, but it’s absolutely something the UK should be doing as it’s going to be an independent free-trading nation.
“So we think it’s poor that the UKGT [UK Global Tariffs] when it was published included tariffs on some things we think the UK should be a bastion of free trade on and looking to remove tariffs as far as possible.”
Beale also told The Spirits Business he was worried the UK government was not doing more work to secure a deal before the end of the Brexit transition period.