The United States has lifted tariffs that were still imposed on British imports dating back to its membership of the European Union, trade secretary Liz Truss announced on Thursday.
UK products such as Scotch whisky, cashmere and clotted cream imported into the US had been subject to retaliatory tariffs of up to 25 per cent following a long-running dispute between Washington and Brussels over state aid for aircraft manufacturers, Boeing and Airbus.
A World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling held that the aerospace companies had received illegal state support from their respective governments and ruled that both the US and the European Commission could impose tariffs on a number of imports not limited to the aerospace industry to mitigate the economic damage.
When Britain left the European Union, it left the Common External Tariff set by Brussels and as such regained the power to set its own levies. The government unilaterally reduced all tariffs on affected US exports to Britain down to zero back in January in an olive branch to the United States.
The Distilled Spirits Council of the United States praised the move by the UK at the time, saying it was a “hopeful sign that a resolution to the debilitating tariffs on U.S. & UK spirits may be in reach.”
The contentious decision by the British government at the time appears to have been justified with the US now following suit and announcing a four-month suspension of retaliatory tariffs on British goods in reciprocity.
“The United Kingdom and the United States are undertaking a four-month tariff suspension to ease the burden on industry and take a bold, joint step towards resolving the longest running disputes at the World Trade Organization,” read a joint UK-US statement published on Thursday.
Liz Truss described the move as “Global Britain in action: securing new opportunities as a newly nimble nation.”
“This breakthrough shows that we can do more under our values-driven approach to stand up for British industry than was possible as part of the EU,” said Truss.
“We are sending a powerful signal that the best way forward for us all lies in free and fair trade.”
The deal is exclusive to Britain. EU products are currently still subject to the same punitive tariffs imposed back in 2019.
Reform UK leader Nigel Farage tweeted on the news: “Delighted that Scotch whisky tariffs have been suspended. Perhaps Biden realises that we are more of a friend than the EU.”
The Scotch Whisky Association said in a statement that the whole industry “is breathing a sigh of relief.”
“Suspending these tariffs – stemming from a transatlantic trade dispute that had nothing to do with us – and a return to tariff-free trade with the US means livelihoods and communities across Scotland will be protected.”