The White House has agreed to drop retaliatory US tariffs on UK exports including scotch whisky, raising hopes of a post-Brexit transatlantic trade deal.
In 2019, the then US president, Donald Trump, imposed a 25% tariff on a range of European Union exports, as part of a 16-year trade dispute over state support for aerospace rivals Boeing and Airbus.
Estimates released last month suggested the duty had led to a £500m dropoff in sales of Scottish single malt alone.
But the Department for International Trade (DIT) said on Thursday the Biden administration had ended the tariff. The move followed the UK scrapping punitive measures against Boeing in January.
“The easier it is for Americans to buy a bottle of Macallan, Talisker or Glenfiddich, the more money those producers will have to invest in their businesses, their staff and futures,” said the trade minister Liz Truss. “Today’s agreement shows that both the UK and the US are determined to work together to build back better and take our trading relationship to new heights.”
The rapprochement, which was first reported by the Spectator, will also result in tariffs being lifted on a range of goods, including £11m of cashmere, £38m of pork products and £45m of cheese, the DIT said.
“From scotch whisky distillers to stilton-makers, businesses across the UK will benefit from the US decision today to suspend tariffs in this dispute,” said Boris Johnson.
The government said it would continue to seek a “fair settlement” with the White House that removed all remaining punitive tariffs related to the dispute to boost the UK’s aerospace industry.
“The government reserves the right to reimpose tariffs at any point if satisfactory progress towards an agreeable settlement is not made,” the DIT said.
The move puts the UK at odds with the EU, which imposed retaliatory tariffs on US imports worth $4bn (£3bn) after the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled the US had given illegal state aid to Boeing. The dispute stretches back to 2006, when the US complained that Airbus was receiving subsidies that put Boeing at a competitive disadvantage.
Drinks industry figures welcomed an end to tariffs that have proved a drag on sales.
“Today is a very good day for Scotch and Scotland,” said Ivan Menezes, the chief executive of Diageo, which owns brands including Johnnie Walker and Talisker. “Final resolution of the aerospace dispute, combined with the announcement of a continued freeze on spirits duty in yesterday’s Budget, will safeguard thousands of jobs across Scotland and the UK.”