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Export leader: sector calls for trade to top EU Agenda

Today, alongside Trade Commissioner, Karel de Gucht, the European spirits drinks sector published “Spirits: a European Power House for Trade”, detailing the sector's track record for exports over the past decade. Eurostat data show that spirits exports outside the EU remain strong and this impressive export performance makes a significant contribution to the economy of European Member States. The sector seized the occasion to call on the new European Commission and European Parliament to support the continued success of the sector by putting trade firmly at the top of their agenda in the next five years.

Over the decade to 2013, European spirits exports have doubled to €10bn.  In the latest year – 2013 - they contributed a positive net trade balance of €8.6bn to the European Union.  High value, local and iconic European spirits are sold around the world, making them the EU’s most valuable agricultural export. The USA is the largest export market, and South East Asia the fastest growing region.
“Local spirits are flying the European flag abroad," said Paul Skehan, Director General of spiritsEUROPE, “but we can achieve so much more."  The sector aims to further increase exports significantly over the next five years, and to achieve this, spiritsEUROPE calls on the incoming European Parliament and Commission to continue to support a very positive, pro-active trade agenda.

“Trade needs to top the EU agenda.  This is not a selfish request but a win-win proposal for Europe," said Skehan.  On average, more than 55% of the price paid for a bottle of spirits is tax.  Through VAT and excise duty alone, the spirits sector generated about €21bn for EU exchequers last year.  Apart from this contribution towards public finances, export success also generates investment and employment in Europe.  To take the example of the leading export category, some €2.5bn of investment has been committed by Scotch whisky producers over the next two years.  There are at least 20 new distilleries being built and much related investment in new bottling plants – with a knock-on benefit for other sectors, such as glass manufacturers, coopers, transporters and packagers.

In the context of the EUROPE 2020 initiative, the EU is considering strategies and policies to sustain growth and stability in today’s highly globalised economy.  As far as international trade is concerned, the answer is to call for more Europe.  “The elimination of high import tariffs and other barriers such as discriminatory tax policy, insufficient intellectual property protection or complex custom procedures need to be addressed by the EU through the conclusion of ambitious Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with our main trading partners,  a reinforced market access strategy, and credible enforcement mechanisms", concluded Skehan. 
India, for instance, is the largest whisky market in the world and yet less than 1% of consumption is of imported products.  The abolition of the 150% import tariff would allow a boom in European spirits exports within a few years of liberalisation.

Source: Agripress    10:25:00|25/06/2014