The glass is definitely half full

Our 2017 Trade Review has been published and we summarize the situation as follows: increased exports, good growth prospects but dependent on even quicker EU trade push, reallocation of staff resources to this “growth and jobs” agenda, and rejection of creeping protectionism.

Indeed, the report confirmed increased exports in 2016 with exports sales exceeded €10.2 billion, representing sales of approximately €1.1 million every hour.  These exports far exceed spirits imports to the EU, meaning our sector generated just under €9 billion in net value for the EU last year.

These results show how much our European spirit drinks are appreciated around the world.  Where markets open, and local economies grow – our whiskies, vodkas, cognacs and gins all sell well.  Indeed, this export success is an example of a very effective public-private partnership:  the Commission goes in and negotiates tariff removal and the elimination of non-tariff barriers; and our spirits companies, large and small, follow, building awareness and appreciation of their brands and selling their products.

But we cannot take any of this for granted.  The trade ‘narrative’ last year was very difficult, with much unjustified criticism of the benefits of open trade.  We also witness moves towards a more protectionist stance in many countries around the globe.  In that regard, we will oppose any rolling back of agreements already signed, either multilaterally or bilaterally with the EU.  In addition, we believe the opportunity now exists for the European Union to forge ahead with an even more assertive, positive trade agenda, accelerating new trade negotiations with more countries.  European business, employees and investors will all benefit – as will the consumers in those third markets.

We also urge quicker and more robust enforcement of rules already negotiated at WTO level or in free trade agreements.  For all these reasons, we call on EU decision-makers to reallocate staff resources towards the trade agenda within the Commission.

Finally, Brexit has certainly opened a new complexity for the European spirit sector.  We have shared interests, both human and corporate, based on positive, welcome integration over the last 44 years.  We need to find a new, constructive partnership to preserve the trade flows and business linkages between the EU27 and the UK.

In conclusion, the glass is definitely half full.  Time to stand up for trade!

Paul Skehan, Director General*


*in his capacity as permanent representative of Skehan sprl