Opportunities & challenges in LatAm
18 Feb 2016
A lot of what we do as the Scotch Whisky Association to ensure
the industry has fair access to all markets worldwide depends on
the European Union. I recently experienced the value of this
support to our exports on a trip to Colombia and Mexico.
Latin America as a whole is already a significant market for
Scotch Whisky. Some £460 million of Scotch Whisky is exported to
the region, one in every six bottles shipped overseas.
Within the region, Colombia and Mexico are two important markets
for Scotch. And each market has its opportunities and
challenges which I learned more about this month when I joined EU
Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan on a delegation he led to the
The EU sets the frameworks in which we operate overseas. It
leads on free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations and subsequent
implementation and it coordinates lobbying with member state
embassies. Now, the part of the Commission responsible for
Agriculture issues - DG Agri - is supporting trade and growth
activities with more technical discussions. These aim to open
markets or resolve difficulties for exporters and they provided the
backdrop for Commissioner Hogan's visit.
To set the scene, Scotch Whisky has a significant presence in
Mexico with whom the EU signed a FTA in 1997. The FTA has been
implemented and is supplemented by a Spirits Drinks agreement. The
market is well regulated and both national and imported products
are available in shops, bars and restaurants and both are thriving.
Cooperation between the Tequila producers and the SWA is
particularly strong. We realise the importance of exports and work
together to improve conditions with overseas markets. We also have
a good relationship with the Tequila regulators who verify the
quality and authenticity of the product.
The Tequila industry clearly has many parallels with Scotch. I
was therefore pleased to see Commissioner Hogan meet Tequila
producers and regulators to cement those already strong ties with
Europe. Such relationships can only benefit Scotch exports to
In Colombia the picture is less rosy. The FTA has been applied
for a much shorter time - since 2013. Colombia is yet to
implement its commitments to remove discrimination and
protectionism in the spirits market. The EU has called for WTO
consultations to resolve the difficulties and this process begins
with detailed conversations to look for solutions.
This is where Commissioner Hogan in his round of meetings with
the Colombian President, government Ministers and State Governors
really supported the Scotch Whisky industry - urging necessary
change which should ultimately benefit the whole sector.
I hope that the Mexican experience serves as a good example of
how both national and imported spirits can successfully coexist in
the market and I look forward to answers being found in this
vibrant and dynamic market.
Sarah Dickson, SWA global affairs director