Scottish Liberal Democrat MEP Sheila Ritchie has urged the European Commission to find a solution to a trade dispute with the United States as the European Parliament backed a motion urging the European Commission and Trade Commissioner to urgently fix the problem of unnecessary and punitive tariffs imposed on agricultural produce by the United States.
The motion submitted by Ms Ritchie and liberal colleagues from across Europe highlighted the unfair nature of the tariffs levied against high value agricultural produce.
Speaking after the vote, Ms Ritchie, who is a member of the Parliament’s Agriculture Committee said:
“Although I would like to have seen tougher language included in the final text, this is a step in the right direction. It calls directly on the Commission to go to the negotiating table and find solutions. The US is the primary destination of EU agricultural exports to a value of €22.3 billion last year alone. We cannot overstate the urgency of finding a resolution to this dispute.”
During her speech in plenary, Sheila Ritchie highlighted the consequences of the tariffs on rural Scotland and on the tens of thousands of jobs affected, and presented Trade Commissioner, Cecilia Malmström, with a tin of Scottish shortbread (also affected by the new tariffs) as she urged an end to the dispute over steel, aluminium and aeroplanes, none of which has anything to do with agricultural produce.
Finishing her speech in the plenary session, Sheila Ritchie stated:
“Please go back to the US, with honey as well as vinegar. The whisky industry spends £70m a year on bourbon casks from the US, and that trade will be lost. For our side of the Atlantic, stop this tit-for-tat tariff, job destroying, retaliation.”
In addition to urging the Commission to strive to find a negotiated solution to trade tensions, the motion stressed that the European Commission should mobilise rapid support for the sectors worst affected (in Scotland, malt whisky and cashmere) by increasing efforts to promote EU agricultural products abroad.
The dispute originates from a ruling by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Airbus subsidies. This ruling gave the United States the right to levy tariffs on EU exports in retaliation for EU subsidies given to Airbus. As a result, the United States imposed a 25 percent tariff on EU agricultural produce, including Scottish single malt whisky, cashmere and 10% on shortbread. To add further complexity to the situation, the European Union launched a parallel case against US aircraft producer, Boeing. A further WTO ruling is expected in early 2020.