Introducing The World Spirits Alliance

12 August, 2019 by Deborah Jackson

In the August issue of National Liquor News, Alec Wagstaff, the CEO of Spirits and Cocktails Australia, talks about the newly formed international association that will represent the views and interests of the spirits industry globally.

Working in a great industry such as ours and dealing with people who love a social occasion and matching the right drink for the right crowd it’s sometimes easy to forget that our industry has strong critics, indeed some who question our right to even exist.

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In my three years at Spirits & Cocktails Australia I have yet to come across a person who does not acknowledge that along with the great benefits alcohol brings there are issues that need to be addressed, issues arising from excess alcohol consumption and from underage drinking. Generally, industry people are happy to commit to solutions they believe will work but get very frustrated with proposals which restrict choice, increase costs but do nothing to address real problems.

It is very important that the practical views of people in the industry, such as liquor store owners and their suppliers are heard by those who are trying to come up with solutions. Having said that, it is not easy for business people to keep across everything that is happening that may affect their businesses. That’s why trade media such as National Liquor News, and the great online resource TheShout, have such an important role in keeping the industry aware of what is happening.

In the same way trade associations such as Spirits & Cocktails Australia and the newly formed Retail Drinks Australia have important roles to bring policy issues to the attention of members and to listen to how they will impact on their business and to effectively be a collective voice so that policy makers take account of those views.

The debate about alcohol policy is not restricted to Australia – in fact recently it featured at the General Assembly of the United Nations. It’s just as important for our industry to be heard at forums such as that and that’s why the global spirits industry last month formed the World Spirits Alliance (WSA), an international association that will represent the views and interests of the spirits industry globally.

WSA members represent producers of products as varied as Baiju from China, Tequila from Mexico, Brazilian Cachaça, Indian IMFL, Cognac and internationally traded whiskies like Scotch Whisky, Irish Whiskey and American Bourbon. As well as Spirits & Cocktails Australia, the companies and associations that form WSA’s membership include: Spirits Europe, Asia Pacific International Wines and Spirits Alliance, Camara Nacional de la Industria Tequilera, Scotch Whisky Association, Association of Canadian Distillers, Pernod Ricard, Diageo, International Spirits and Wines Association of India, Japanese Spirits Liquor Makers Association, Brown-Forman, Distilled Spirits Council of the US, Spirits New Zealand, Rémy Cointreau, Beam Suntory, Campari and Edrington.

The WSA will be the industry’s representative partner in front of international organisations including the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations (UN) and its members will continue to work towards the elimination of tariffs, non-tariff barriers, and discriminatory taxes; fair, transparent and evidence-based regulation; ‘adequate’ excise tax structures; ‘proportionate’ evidence-based public health measures for distilled spirits; and ‘ambitious’ strategies to combat illicit alcohol.

And getting back to the United Nations, in September 2018 the General Assembly agreed a declaration in part:

“Encouraging economic operators in the area of alcohol production and trade, as appropriate, to contribute to reducing harmful use of alcohol in their core areas, taking into account national religious, and cultural contexts;

(c) Take concrete steps, where relevant, towards eliminating the marketing, advertising and sale of alcoholic products to minors”.

So, when Australian drinks retailers check the ID of customers, as they do every day, they are also doing their bit to take up an invitation from the United Nations to be part of the solution. Who would have thought?

Read the full August issue of National Liquor News here.