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03 October 2020

Letter to the Times: Time is of the essence on US Tariffs

26 SWA Member Companies have written a letter to the Times on US tariffs.

Twenty-six SWA member companies have written a letter in The Times on US tariffs. Read the letter in full below.


Dear Sir,

Today [Saturday 3rd October] marks one year since the United States announced a 25% tariff on Single Malt Scotch Whisky in retaliation for illegal subsides granted by European governments, including the UK, to Airbus.

The US is Scotch Whisky’s most valuable market, with over £1 billion of Scotch Whisky exports in 2019.  The 25% tariff has had a devastating impact – exports fell by 32% over the last year, amounting to £360 million of losses.

Every day that passes, our businesses are losing sales and market share to competitors because our whiskies now have to be sold at higher prices. COVID-19 is compounding our difficulties and the situation is grave.  Our businesses cannot sustain losses at this level indefinitely. 

We are encouraged that the Department for International Trade is now committed to resolving the UK-US share of the Airbus/Boeing dispute direct with the US government.  But other government departments must engage too. If tariffs cannot be lifted by the US Presidential election, it could be many months before a new administration returns to this issue. That presents a real risk to jobs and businesses in Scotland.

The government must double down on resolving this dispute rapidly. Not to do so will be a crushing blow for free trade and for one of Scotland’s most successful exports.


Ewan Andrew, President of Global Supply and Procurement, Diageo

Stephen Bremner, Managing Director, The Tomatin Distillery Co Lt

Alex Bruce, Managing Director, Adelphi Distillery Ltd

Jean-Christophe Coutures, Chairman & CEO, Chivas Brothers

Alasdair Day, Managing Director, R&B Distillers Limited

Bryan Donaghey, Chief Executive, Whyte and Mackay

John Fordyce, Director, The Three Stills Company Limited

John L.S. Grant, Chairman, J. & G. Grant - Glenfarclas Distillery

Andrew Hogan, Managing Director, Drinks Innovation UK Ltd

Liam Hughes, CEO & C0-Founder, Glasgow Distillery Company Ltd

Simon Hunt, Chief Executive, William Grant & Sons Ltd

Rebecca Jago, Managing Director, The Last Drop Distillers 

Caroline James, Director, Vintage Malt Whisky Company Ltd 

Scott Laing, Director, Hunter Laing & Co Ltd

Chris Leggat, Managing Director, Douglas Laing & Co.

Martin Leonard, Managing Director, InverHouse Distillers

Ewen Mackintosh, Managing Director, Gordon & MacPhail

Colin Matthews, Chief Executive, Loch Lomond Group

Scott McCroskie, Chief Executive, Edrington

Thomas Moradpour, CEO, The Glenmorangie Company

Stuart Nickerson, CEO, The Malt Whisky Company

Ian Palmer, Managing Director, John Fergus & Co Ltd

Dr Nick Savage, Master Distiller, Bladnoch Distillery

Sukhinder Singh, Co-founder & Director, Speciality Drinks Ltd

David Sloan, Managing Director, MacDuff International (Scotch Whisky) Limited

Fraser Thornton, Managing Director, Distell International Ltd  

Commenting, SWA Chief Executive Karen Betts said:

“It’s exactly a year since the US government decided to impose a tariff on Single Malt Scotch Whisky as part of WTO-mandated retaliation in the Airbus/Boeing dispute.  Given the damage this has caused, today we’re pressing government to redouble their efforts to resolve this dispute and bring an end to the UK’s part in 15 years of litigation at the WTO, which is now damaging industries – like ours – that have nothing to do with the aerospace sector. 

“Time is of the essence.  The Department of International Trade has now committed to finding a bilateral resolution to the dispute with the US and we know that the US side is ready to negotiate.  With the final WTO ruling in the dispute now about to be handed down, everything is in place to enable a swift settlement before the US Presidential election on 3 November. 

“A settlement is in everyone’s interests. To achieve this, UK government departments – in particular the Treasury and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy – will need to work together quickly and decisively alongside the Department for International Trade. 

“If the UK government cannot resolve this before the US elections, it could be many more months before the next US administration returns to the issue, and every month will cost Scotch Whisky producers £30 million in lost exports.  The signatories to today’s letter, who account for around 95% of Scotch Whisky production, are clear that a swift resolution is both possible and desirable, and that we should no longer have to pay the price for another industry’s dispute.”



Karen Betts

SWA Chief Executive Karen Betts