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Scotch Whisky (Japanese Import Duty)

Volume 934: debated on Monday 27 June 1977

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asked the Secretary of State for Trade what progress has been made in efforts to persuade the Japanese Government to lower the rate of duty imposed on Scotch whisky.

Both we and the EEC Commission have been pressing the Japanese Government to reduce the fiscal burden on Scotch whisky. The Commission expects to have further discussions with the Japanese next month; and the issue is also being pursued in the multilateral trade negotiations.

Is the Minister aware that the basis on which the Japanese authorities assess duty on whisky is different as between the domestic product and imported Scotch whisky, to the disadvantage of the latter? Does he not agree that this is one of the difficulties of increasing trade between the two coun- tries, to which his right hon. Friend referred a few moments ago? Will he therefore put every possible effort into his representations on behalf of the Government and the EEC to persuade the Japanese Government to remove this disparity?

Yes, I am certainly aware that imports of Scotch whisky into Japan have not only to pay an import duty but also an ad valorem liquor tax. This discrimination puts them in a disadvantageous position. We are certainly telling the Japanese and have in the past constantly reminded them about this, both bilaterally and through the EEC. My right hon. Friend raised it in Tokyo in April with the International Trade and Industry Minister, Mr. Tanaka. We are aware of the importance of the Japanese market for this purpose because it is the largest market outside the United States of America, and we shall continue with our efforts.

Can my hon. Friend say why no hon. Member from the Scottish National Party is here to get after this Question? On a more serious point, why on earth do the Japanese want to put this duty on? Surely they want more and more Scotch whisky.

I am sure that they want more if they know their real drinking requirements. But they are trying to develop their own particular brand of suntory.

May I give the hon. Gentleman another opportunity to correct a mistake that he made earlier in saying that the EEC is striving for self-efficiency in industry and agriculture, since he is not likely to succeed in the current negotiations that we are discussing on this Question if others such as the Japanese really believe that that is the objective of the EEC?

I am grateful for the hon. Gentleman's concern for my accuracy. I still think that I was quite correct in what I said. In this case, I hope that we shall shortly get a breakthrough with the Japanese.