Paul Clinton, Diageo's US boss, has called for an unprecedented summit of the beverage alcohol industry in the US to raise awareness of its commitment to the responsible use of the industry's products and to work together to prevent further increases in taxes on beverage alcohol.

The conference will be held in the spring of 2003.

The proposal was made in a speech at a meeting of the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA), where Clinton said: "Everyone in the industry deeply believes in and practices social responsibility. Everyone in the industry deeply believes that taxes on all our products are already unreasonably high. I propose that the entire industry come together next spring in an all-industry summit to address just two topics: gaining better awareness and appreciation of our joint commitment to the responsible use of our products and working to prevent taxes on any of our products from being raised."

Clinton called on beer, wine and spirits suppliers, wholesalers and retailers, as well as the industry associations that represent them, to join Diageo in promoting these two critical issues in a cooperative manner and reported that the idea has been favorably received by many in the industry, including the leadership of NBWA.

He indicated that he would actively seek the support of others in the industry, including The Beer Institute, Distilled Spirits Council (DISCUS), the Wine Institute, American Wineries, Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America, American Beverage Licensees, the American Beverage Institute.

Clinton said given the size of the industry there was great potential for speaking in one voice. 

He went on: "Americans and American policymakers need to better understand and appreciate the major commitment we all make to the responsible use of our products. Efforts from the beer, wine and spirits segments are showing results, both in terms of greater awareness of the problems associated with underage drinking and misuse of beverage alcohol and in terms of a decline in drunken driving incidents. We are committed to continuing to be a part of the solution to these problems.

On taxes, Clinton said that beverage alcohol is among the most heavily taxed of all consumer products and it is to the benefit of the entire industry - and consumers - to come together to prevent further increases in beverage alcohol taxes, which already account for more than half the price consumers pay.