Whiskey on Boris Johnson’s table as he heads to New Delhi


Leading Scotch whisky maker Chivas Brothers said it aims to double exports to India if New Delhi lifts whisky tariffs, the UK’s top priority in bilateral trade talks ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s visit to India this week. Require.

India is the world’s largest whisky consumer and the second largest export market for Scotch whisky. But British industry has accused India of hampering growth in the country of 1.4 billion people with a 150 percent tariff on imported wine.

New Delhi’s levy on British whisky makers has become a sore point in the UK-India trade relationship and at the heart of trade talks that began earlier this year.

Johnson will travel to India this week and meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he looks to advance talks and expand security cooperation in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Jean-Étienne Gourg, chairman of Chivas Brothers, part of France’s Pernod Ricard group, told the Financial Times that “the odds of a trade deal have never been higher”.

Scotch ‘only a small part of all the whiskies people enjoy [in India]”, he said. “The medium-term goal is to at least double the size of the market. And with the size of the population of the middle class, I see a very large appetite. It should be one of the top markets. “

Trade between the UK and India was worth £18.5bn in 2020, but stand still over the past ten years. This compares to £38bn in trade between the UK and Belgium in the same year.

India currently accounts for 1.2% of UK exports – it is the UK’s 21st largest export market – and UK companies currently sell more to countries such as Singapore, Sweden and Norway.

London and New Delhi agreed last year to establish a comprehensive UK-India strategic partnership to boost investment and jobs as part of a plan to double trade by 2030. But analysts remain sceptical that a long-discussed free trade deal will be reached in time to finalize the 2024 British and Indian elections.

New Delhi has long demanded easier access to British visas for Indian students and skilled workers, sparking political controversy in the UK.

Trade Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan told the Financial Times in January that “everything is on the table”, including immigration, as countries seek to hammer out a deal.

Samlow, a trade expert at the Centre for European Reform, said Britain had given India “a lot of what they wanted” on immigration after Brexit, and a trade deal between the two countries was now possible.

The lifting of the so-called secondary cap on skilled workers coming to the UK in December 2020 – and the UK’s decision to put Indian workers on an equal footing with their EU counterparts – was a pivotal moment.

However, India is expected to push more of its students and workers into the UK for trade talks, some Conservative MPs and immigration hawks at the Home Office.

“Boris Johnson can do that, but it will involve some fights with the Home Office,” Low said. However, he warned that any trade deal between India and the UK could initially be “pretty shallow”.

He added that given New Delhi’s refusal to criticize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, politics “is not suitable” for an early and ambitious trade deal.

Indian authorities have long been wary of opening up domestic industries through free trade agreements, but the country recently signed a deal with the United Arab Emirates and an interim agreement with Australia.

Most Indian whisky is locally produced, and the high taxes and fees imposed on imported liquor are an important source of revenue for Indian authorities. But the country has also long been hostile to the alcohol industry, with some states banning it altogether.

The Scotch Whisky Association said lowering tariffs “must be a priority in trade negotiations” and said it hoped the two countries could reach an interim “early harvest” deal before a full trade deal.



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