Australian trade deal – whisky boost merits beef risk – The Scottish Farmer

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A UK-AUSTRALIA trade deal could bring a major boost for Scotch whisky producers with the removal of the current 5% tariff on whisky exports.

Mounting a spirited defence of the Department for International Trade’s ‘no barriers, no tariffs’ negotiating stance, UK Minister for Exports, Graham Stuart, visited Diageo’s Glenkinchie Distillery, near Edinburgh, last week, and insisted that Scottish farmers could only gain from unrestricted trade with Australia.

Australia is currently the eighth biggest market for Scotch whisky exports, worth £113 million last year, and the Scotch Whisky Association agreed that a tariff cut would help boost sales and support distillers across Scotland, in turn supporting more than 10,000 jobs in Scotland alone.

Quizzed about the other side of the coin – the threat of a flood of red meat imports from Australia’s more intensive production systems – Mr Stuart retorted that the Australians already have a beef export quota into the UK that they choose not to use.

“Our assessment is that any increase in Australian beef coming here as a result of a new trade deal is more likely to displace the EU beef we currently import, as opposed to UK beef,” said Mr Stuart, who insisted that getting the UK a foothold in the region – and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership involving Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam – was a prize well worth chasing.

“Why are Scottish farmers worried?” asked Mr Stuart. “The meat market in the EU is expected to drop. If you want a future for your son or daughter on the farm, look to the fastest growing markets of the world!” The minister also suggested that, contrary to criticisms levelled at the UK government over the environmental impact of trading food halfway round the world rather than on our doorstep, the carbon footprint of shipping was comparatively low.

He also suggested that greater access to the Pacific markets would allow for greater balancing of carcase use, as cuts unpopular with Western consumers – in particular the fifth quarter – would find ready buyers in the Far East.

“As we continue to reduce trade barriers and cut red tape, UK businesses and consumers can be assured that they will benefit from all the trade deals we are signing with countries across the world,” declared Mr Stuart. “The 800 Scottish businesses exporting goods to Australia last year are no exception to this and the others that will join them will only further showcase the very best Britain has to offer.”

Scotch Whisky Association chief executive, Karen Betts, commented: “Over the last 10 years, exports of Scotch Whisky to Australia have almost doubled. But they’re subject to a 5% tariff which we’d very much like to see removed, which would help to boost growth in our industry’s 8th largest global market.

“The FTA is also an opportunity to strengthen the legal protection of Scotch Whisky in Australia, and to improve its enforcement. Stopping those who seek to take advantage of the quality reputation of Scotch Whisky with counterfeit Scotch is a priority for us in Australia, as it is in all our export markets.”