UK: SWA demands tariff solution at WTO talks

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The Scotch Whisky Association has demanded a "meaningful solution" to the industry's market access problems at the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Conference today.

Speaking from the conference, international affairs director of the SWA Tim Jackson said: "The new trade round must deliver practical measures to liberalise world markets."

The SWA has long been fighting for significant import tariff reductions and a level playing field between WTO member countries. It points out that while the US and UK have all but eliminated tariffs on imported spirits, many WTO members still have much to do.

India, for example levels tariffs of up to 700%, while Thailand's are set at 63%.

In a statement the SWA said: "The last trade round had little impact on import tariffs and consumer prices because of the gulf between the actual tariff that countries apply and the highest tariff they are permitted to.

Jackson said: "WTO negotiations have always focussed on the bound tariff rate, which is the maximum tariff a country can impose. However, there is often a vast difference between the bound rate and the actual tariff that a government applies."

He continued: "Romania for example, applies a tariff of 90% on imported spirits. While this is high, the maximum rate they could impose is substantially higher at 247%. Therefore if WTO members agree that bound tariffs should be reduced by 20%, the price of a bottle of imported spirits in Romania remains just as expensive.

The WTO went on to call for "lessons to be learnt" from the Uruguay round of talks where more than 120 members reduced their bound tariffs, but in only 12 cases did the reduction actually have an impact on the final retail price.

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