Scotch makers eye Korean talks for Asian ambitions boost

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags International trade

Scotch whisky makers see trade talks taking place next month between Korea and the EU as another major step in its continued attempts to develop further into Asia’s spirit markets.

Trade group, the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), says that it is lobbying the European Commission to use part of free trade talks taking place in Seoul during March to push for a removal of a 20 per cent import tariff on the spirit. Commitments to greater trademark protection are also being pushed by the association.

Martin Bell, who serves as international affairs manager for the SWA, claims that with Korea serving as the fifth largest export market for Scotch product amounting to £139m in sales during 2007, removal of the tariffs would serve as a major boost to the industry across the region.

“Securing a deal is all the more important because the economic slowdown could have an adverse effect on EU-Korea trade, including of luxury products,”​ he stated. “Both sides need to make a determined push to reach an agreement during the next round of talks in Seoul.”

Asian interest

David Williamson of the SWA told that Korea, like Asia as a whole, has been a key target for Scotch whisky makers for sometime.

Williamson pointed to more established markets such as Thailand and China, as well as high priority countries such as India, as a reflection of the potential for whisky suppliers in the region

As a key part of its focus on Asia, the SWA said that it was particularly keen to ensure that countries like Korea were meeting commitments agreed through the World Trade Organization (WTO) relating to protecting property rights.

Williamson said that maintaining trademarks such as geographical indications (GI), which are used to protect the production and heritage of certain food and beverage products through law, was an increasingly import task in the area.

He said that an invitation back in 2007 from the Chinese government to discuss a similar system to the GI protection employed in Europe was potentially the first deal of its kind in the country, reflecting its own commitments in the region.

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