The tariff battle over wine imports continued with the Chilean Ambassador Jorge Heine and Commerce Minister, Kamal Nath entering the fray. Kamal Nath explained that India could only reduce the tariffs on wine once Europe accepts Indian whisky. Currently, The EU doesn’t treat Indian whisky as whisky because it is made from molasses. Jorge Heine urged India to reduce the tariffs as Kamal Nath asked for his help in battling Europe on the whisky issue. India is on the verge of signing a preferential trade agreement with Chile.
Keep to promote Chilean wines in India, the Chilean Embassy had organized a Chile Wine Fest in February this year. Brindco, Sonarys , Global, Sovereign Impex, Moet Hennessy India , Ace Beverages and Rhine & Raavi were the wine importers that participated. The highly successful event was organized in partnership with the Indian Wine Academy.
Battle over the bottle turns bitter
The Telegraph, Calcutta
New Delhi, March 8: The epicures will blanch at the thought: French and Italian wines won’t be cheap in India until the European Union accepts our whisky.
The wine aficionados have been making a strong pitch for scaling back duties on the ground that wine and liqueurs have low alcohol content and ought not to be charged customs duty at the rate of 150 per cent — the same as hard liquor.
Commerce minister Kamal Nath waded into the controversy today by suggesting that the government would not scale back duties until the Europeans played the game of reciprocity.
The issue came up when Chilean ambassador Jorge Heine raised the issue at a ceremony to mark the signing of a preferential trade agreement between the two countries.
Heine said, “India must lower tariffs on our wines.”
Nath retorted that India had imposed high tariffs on the import of European wines because they (the EU) do not consider “our whisky as whisky”.
“They argue that our whisky is not whisky because it is made from molasses,” Nath said.
“This is unfair,” he said, “Especially when Indian companies are prepared to state clearly on the label of their products that the whisky was made from molasses.”
Nath told the Chilean delegation that the government was prepared to change the rules of the game for the South American nation if they allowed Indian whisky to flow to that country.
“We need Chile’s help to set the record straight on our whisky as far as Europe is concerned,” Nath added.
Nath said the preferential trade agreement with Chile “marks a watershed in ties between the two countries as it will impart a new dimension to our trade relations”.
The agreement provides for tariff preferences ranging from 10 to 50 per cent. The Indian products expected to benefit from the agreement include textiles, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, engineering and agricultural machinery.
The Chilean products that will benefit from the preferential trade agreement are copper, cellulose, newsprint, iodine, fish meal, wood boards, planks and salmon.
The reduced tariffs are expected to be notified in about two months. Both sides also discussed draft reports of the joint study group and agreed to submit their findings to their respective governments to consider further action on a free trade agreement.