Concern voiced over impact of US tariff increases on Borders businesses

Council chiefs are being urged to help Borders businesses cope with the impact of US president Donald Trump’s latest round of trade tariff hikes on the region’s textile and whisky industries. 

Monday, 4th November 2019, 10:45 am
Councillor Davie Paterson is concerned about the impact of increased US trade tariffs on textile businesses in his home-town of Hawick.

Mr Trump has increased tariffs on specified goods from European Union countries in retaliation for subsidies given to Netherlands-based aerospace manufacturer Airbus that the US administration claims give it an unfair advantage over American rival Boeing.

Tariffs of 25% were brought in on Friday, October 18, on products such as Scotch whisky, Savile Row suits, Spanish olives, Italian Parmesan cheese and French wine – and because Britain did not exit the union as planned yesterday, October 31, and will remain a member of it into next year, that will hit businesses here as well as abroad. 

At a full meeting of Scottish Borders Council yesterday, its ruling executive was called on to explain what measures it is taking to protect textile businesses in Hawick and the rest of the region. 

Hawick and Hermitage councillor David Paterson asked: “What steps are the council taking to ensure businesses in the Borders do not get unduly penalised in the latest round of trade wars, with the American Republican administration imposing tariffs on cashmere and other luxury goods exported from Scotland to America. 

“This action could well have far-reaching effects on the textiles industry and other industries like single malt whisky.”

Mid Berwickshire councillor Mark Rowley, the council’s executive member for economic development, answered: “I share your concerns, and in fact, ahead of the question coming in, I’d already met with some of the people who will be affected by these tariffs to offer what support I could.

“It remains the case that the council shares these concerns about the tariffs on goods and the export of certain cashflows and on their impact on Borders manufacturers. 

“However, this is a matter for the UK Government as it’s a reserved matter and neither the Scottish Government nor the council has any control over it.

“I believe that industry as a whole has made its concerns known to the UK Government, and the government are working closely with the US government and the European Union and other partners to agree a negotiated settlement.

“I would further add that I have spoken to our MP, John Lamont, and he has made direct representations and has been pushing this.

“I do understand his concerns, and it’s something we’re following closely.”

Representatives of the UK Fashion and Textile Association have met Westminster’s international trade secretary, Liz Truss, to discuss how best to deal with the increased tariffs. 

Following that meeting, association chief executive officer Adam Mansell said: “Waiting for the outcome of a potential free trade agreement with the US isn’t enough.

“We need the government to take direct action now to support our manufacturing industry.

“Some companies will be facing tariffs of more than 40% on some products.

“At a time when the industry is facing huge uncertainty over the impact of Brexit, this is devastating.”

Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk MP Mr Lamont shares Mr Paterson’s concerns, having previously told us: “It is completely unfair for businesses in the Borders to be caught in the middle of what is essentially a disagreement between the EU and the US about aircraft.

“Unfortunately, what has happened is that the EU was found to have broken the law in 2004 and the US has been allowed to impose these tariffs in response.

“For both whisky and textiles to be hit with a 25% tariff for one of our largest markets could be crippling, will inevitably harm economic growth and could cost jobs.

“Like a number of other colleagues, I’ve strongly urged ministers to do all they can to protect Scottish businesses and will continue to raise this issue.

“The UK Government needs to use every available avenue to broker an agreement between the US and the EU to try to bring an end to this dispute.”