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Scottish Goods: US Tariffs

Volume 687: debated on Thursday 14 January 2021

My right hon. Friend has been a huge champion for Scotch whisky. We have been working hard to de-escalate this conflict and get punitive tariffs removed on both sides of the Atlantic. That is the way forward, not escalating this tariff dispute.

The Secretary of State has worked incredibly hard in negotiating with the United States to try to find a bilateral settlement to the Airbus-Boeing dispute to facilitate a deal with the US. Of course she is aware of the significant damage that the Scotch whisky industry continues to suffer, with export losses now approaching a staggering £450 million. Will she reassure me that as soon as possible after the new US Administration is in place, she will urgently pick up negotiations on a deal to end tariffs? Will she update the House, before that, on what support she requires from other UK Government Departments to ensure that a deal is agreed by the whole of the UK Government?

I completely agree with my right hon. Friend about the urgency of ending this tariff dispute. I have been clear with the United States and the European Union that we want to de-escalate it and reach a negotiated settlement. This dispute has already been going on for 16 years and has caused much damage. I am seeking an early meeting with the new US trade representative, Katherine Tai, and this will be one of the items on my agenda. I am also working closely with the new Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy on this issue.

I know that everybody in Government is working hard on this, but I want to reiterate the huge financial strain that the tariffs are having on the textile and cashmere industry in my constituency in the Scottish borders, which I fear will cost many local jobs. Will the Government consider offering financial compensation to the firms affected to protect local jobs and this industry?

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point. We are looking at supporting industry, including through the BEIS fund that will invest £10 million to help distilleries go green, and no doubt the Treasury is looking at other affected industries as well. If we had accepted the advice from Labour to put additional tariffs on US products such as sweet potatoes and nuts, we would likely be hit by more tariffs as Germany and France were, as announced on 30 December.

The Secretary of State has threatened to reimpose tariffs on the United States if the Airbus dispute is not settled, but that threat will only carry any impact if the US believes that we have the legal authority to carry it out. Will she agree to publish the UK’s legal advice or our exchange of letters with the World Trade Organisation to prove that she is not bluffing and that we genuinely have the authority to reimpose those tariffs if we need to do so?

I am very clear that we have the authority to impose those tariffs. We have acquired rights as a result of leaving the European Union. But I go back to the point I was making: the hon. Gentleman has advocated putting additional tariffs on products such as sweet potatoes and nuts, so presumably he thinks that we have those acquired rights.