European spirits firms have welcomed a commitment from Turkey to the EU that it will phase out higher taxes on imported spirits, compared to domestic products.

A deal signed this week between the EU and Turkey will require Turkey to tax both imported and domestic spirits at the same level by 2018.

Reductions in imported tax will take place in 2012, 2015 and, finally, 2018, according to the agreement, which comes as part of Turkey's attempts to gain membership of the EU.

"The EU-Turkey agreement on spirits tax reform is a major boost," said Jamie Fortescue, director general of the European Spirits Organisation.

"Removing discrimination is one of our top international priorities and we're delighted that spirit drinks will have the opportunity to compete on a level tax playing field in Turkey in the future."

Turkey cut duty tax on Scotch whisky by 30% in April this year. Scotch was previously taxed at double the rate of locally produced Raki, according to the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA).

SWA European affairs director Nick Soper said: "We have been grateful to have excellent support from the British Embassy, UK Government and European Commission on this long running issue, and the accession process has again proved to be invaluable in removing trade barriers."

Scotch Whisky exports to Turkey in 2008 were valued at GBP28m, making the 26th largest export market by value for the spirit.