Free trade must be a priority for Irish MEPs after the next election – ABFI

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

• “Irish economic model will suffer if MEPs reject future trade agreements”
• New European Parliament is expected to consider trade agreements with Vietnam, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand
• De-escalating EU-US trade disputes vitally important for Irish whiskey and Irish cream liqueur

With global economic and geopolitical uncertainties, including Brexit and EU-US trade disputes, Alcohol Beverage Federation of Ireland (ABFI) has today highlighted the vital importance of the next European Parliament in promoting free trade. This would support one of Ireland’s fastest growing export sectors, the drinks industry – in turn supporting Irish jobs and the Irish farmers who supply the industry.

Ahead of next Friday’s European elections, ABFI, the representative body for drinks manufacturers and distributors in Ireland, has called on Irish European Parliament candidates to support the ratification of EU Free Trade deals to drive Irish drinks exports, should they be elected.

The outgoing Parliament approved important major trade deals with Canada and Japan while the next Parliament is expected to consider agreements with Vietnam, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and possibly the US. These agreements have the potential to open up or expand opportunities for Irish drinks products in vital markets.

ABFI has also stressed the importance of de-escalating EU-US trade disputes and removing EU tariffs on US whiskeys.

Since June 2018, US whiskeys being imported to the EU have faced a 25% tariff. These are set to double to 50% in June 2021. There remains a real and substantial risk that EU spirits could be hit by retaliatory tariffs. There’s also a risk that EU liqueurs, including Irish cream liqueur, could be hit by separate retaliatory action due to a dispute over subsidies for aircraft manufacturers.

As the US is by far the biggest export market for Irish whiskey and Irish cream liqueur, US tariffs would have a devastating effect on the industry.

Patricia Callan, Director of ABFI said:

“Ireland’s drinks industry is not only significant in the national context, supporting over 90,000 jobs, but is also hugely important to the EU economy. Exports from the industry are worth €1.44 billion to over 140 markets worldwide. Three of the EU’s top five export categories for spirits are Irish whiskey and Irish cream liqueur. They will represent two of the top three after Brexit. Additionally, Ireland is the EU’s seventh-largest beer exporter.

“EU support for Ireland’s drinks industry, facilitated by our MEPs, is critical to delivering future export growth, particularly as we continue to face a period of great uncertainty. By backing free trade our new MEPs help to deliver a real return to the Irish economy. However, consequently, the Irish economic model will suffer if MEPs reject future trade agreements.

“ABFI has also called on future Irish MEPs to support equality in laws and funding to all drinks categories. At present, beer and wine often receive preferential treatment over spirits and cider. For example, under EU excise laws, small breweries can qualify for excise relief, but small distilleries and cider producers, which are also hugely important to our industry, cannot.”