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Switzerland cuts import duties on foreign spirits

Import duties on foreign spirits in Switzerland were cut dramatically on Thursday, in a move that brought import taxation into line with European Union policy.

This content was published on July 1, 1999 - 08:04

Import duties on foreign spirits in Switzerland were cut dramatically on Thursday, in a move that brought import taxation into line with European Union policy.

The cut in import duties was expected to lead to lower consumer prices for foreign spirits, even though estimates differed as to how much prices would go down.

The Berner Zeitung newspaper reported that prices will drop by up to 40 percent for Scotch Whisky and French Cognac and as much as 35 percent for rum, gin and vodka. Price labels for United States whisky brands were expected to show a drop of about 50 percent.

While taxes on imports were falling Thursday, those on Swiss spirits such as Kirsch or Pear Williams were increasing. The tax on one litre of domestically-produced pure alcohol went up from SFr26 to SFr29.

The tax hike was expected to lead to slight price increases for Swiss spirits in the near future.

The new taxation policy means stiffer competition for Swiss producers, who have been protected from foreign imports for years.

In an apparent attempt to fight the foreign competition, Swiss producers recently formed the DistiSwiss association, which will promote Kirsch and other spirits with tasting competitions and by creating a label of quality.

While consumers and importers of foreign spirits were happy about the reduction in prices, the Swiss Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and other drugs in Lausanne warned that the lower prices might encourage young people to switch to higher alcohol-content drinks.

It remained unclear, however, whether Swiss hotels and restaurants would pass on price reductions -- and if so, by how much.

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