THE SNP has demanded that Westminster officials try harder to resolve a trade war with Donald Trump which is causing “real and significant harm” to the Scotch whisky industry.
Scotch whisky, along with cheese and cashmere have been subject to 25 per cent tariffs since October 2019 after the United States won a legal case over subsidies paid by European governments to aircraft manufacturer Airbus.
The Scottish Government has now penned a letter to one of Boris Johnson’s trade ministers, demanding that International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and her officials “resolve this matter once and for all”.
Sources within Department for International Trade said the secretary “will stop at nothing” to get the tariffs lifted and is becoming increasingly frustrated by the US refusal to cooperate on the issue.
Joe Biden’s top foreign policy adviser has suggested that the presidential candidate would bring an end to the “artificial trade war” if he defeats Mr Trump at the polls next month.
In his letter to UK Trade Minister Greg Hands, Scottish Trade Minister Ivan McKee, has called for “full details of the nature, level and extent” of the Conservatives’ discussions with the European Commission on resolving the dispute.
Mr McKee has also called for the UK Government to offer financial support for the industries impacted, including Scotch whisky, which are being hampered further by the economic impacts of the Covid-19 crisis.
He added: “Without this, neither the Scottish Government nor the Scottish business community is convinced that the UK Government truly understands the harm these tariffs are causing, nor the urgency of the need to press for a more vigorous approach towards reaching a settlement.
“The UK Government has relished the opportunity to exercise its own independent trade policy but the UK Government’s failure to deliver on its commitment to resolve the application of these punitive but unnecessary tariffs before the UK-US trade deal negotiations got underway has done little to inspire confidence.
“The impact of these tariffs has, of course, been compounded by the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic. I take this opportunity, therefore, to question also the support that the UK Government is willing to put in place for those businesses most affected by these tariffs to cushion the substantial harm they are enduring through no fault of their own.”
The Prime Minister has raised the tariffs directly with Mr Trump, while Ms Truss has consistently pressed US Trade Representative Robert Lightizer to halt the penalties.
Westminster officials hope that the EU’s retaliatory rights in the Boeing row will force more pressure on the US to end the tariffs on imported products.
A UK Government spokesperson said: “We are fighting incredibly hard on this issue. US tariffs on key Scottish products are unacceptable, unfair and harm industry and consumers on both sides of the Atlantic.
“We continue to raise the issue at the highest levels of the US administration and are stepping up talks to get these tariffs removed so we can help struggling producers. Our action is in stark contrast to the EU, which has failed to stand up for British and Scottish business.
“From the start of next year, the UK will have its own trade policy and tariff regime and be able to go further and faster than the EU in opening up new opportunities for whisky distillers and businesses across the country. The SNP would deny businesses those opportunities by having the UK and Scotland remain part of an intransigent EU that consistently fails to protect Scottish interests.”