Trade minister steps up calls on ‘damaging’ US tariffs

Scottish trade minister Ivan McKee is also calling on Westminster to do more to support the affected industries.

Trade minister steps up calls on ‘damaging’ US tariffs Getty Images

UK ministers are being pressed to set out what steps are being taken over “damaging” tariffs imposed by America on key Scottish exports.

Scottish trade minister Ivan McKee is also calling on Westminster to do more to support the affected industries.

It has been almost a year since the US imposed 25% tariffs on Scotch single malt whisky, cheese and cashmere – with McKee insisting that the charges are not only damaging Scotland’s economy but are also causing “significant harm” to businesses, many of which are based in small, rural communities.

He added that their impact has “of course been compounded by the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic”.

McKee has now written to UK trade minister Greg Hands, calling on him to share a “detailed account of the UK Government’s plans regarding the management, mitigation and route for removal of these tariffs going forward”.

The UK Government is also being urged to set out what engagement it has with the European Union to settle the dispute that resulted in the tariffs being imposed.

McKee also asked what support for businesses the UK Government is “willing to put in place to cushion the impacts of these tariffs meantime”.

In his letter, the Scottish trade minister said: “These tariffs have been in place for almost a year now, denting our export performance, damaging our economy and causing real and significant harm to, and anxiety over, the future viability of individual businesses, particularly those in small, rural communities.

“Efforts to absorb the ensuing additional costs and weather these impacts are becoming increasingly unsustainable.

“This jeopardises not just the distilleries, cheese and knitwear businesses themselves but the longer term prosperity of the communities in which they are located, who depend on these industries also for the wider income they generate through hospitality and tourism.”

McKee added that the value of the communities to the Scottish and UK economy “cannot be under-estimated”.

A UK Government spokeswoman 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.”