It’s traditional in business and diplomacy for negotiators to bring their opposite numbers a token gift.
Unilever has a lovely trick of presenting a jar of Marmite with the deal-maker’s name on the label.
Diageo has been known to present a personalised bottle of Johnnie Walker.
It seems Washington DC’s trade officials feel no such social compunction.
For, at a time when we are trying to thrash out a US-UK trade deal for our mutual harmony after Brexit, they today refused to offer us the token of a relaxation on their outrageous tariffs on Scotch whisky.
The US slapped a 25% levy on Scotch last October. Since then, exports of the liquor from Diageo and smaller producers have slumped by nearly a third.
It is costing British jobs, tax revenues and profits. Not to mention pricing millions of innocent Americans out of one of life’s greatest pleasures.
The Americans did this in retaliation for a battle we’re not even part of — its never-ending trade spat with the EU.
Europe, you see, slapped 25% tarriffs on American whiskeys a couple of years ago.
Today, we’re told by Liz Truss, America has “backed off” from imposing similar tariffs on UK beer and gin — a concession for which the Trade Secretary expects plaudits.
She also trumpeted her success in getting tariffs on shortbread biscuits removed.
Sorry, but this is an insult, not a concession.
Scotch — unlike shortbread — is one of the UK’s biggest exports. October’s tariffs have already cost £300 million in lost sales.
If the US is serious about building bridges in our trade talks, it must cut us some slack.
Otherwise, it looks like our newly small, independent nation is liable to being pushed around at whim by bigger powers — the ball of wool to their cat.
Perish the thought.