Page last updated at 09:29 GMT, Friday, 10 April 2009 10:29 UK

Action pledge on Chinese copycats

Scotch whisky bottles
Scottish imagery is often used by rivals to imitate the genuine article

The Scotch whisky brand could get greater protection after talks between Alex Salmond and a Chinese minister.

Officials said Scotland's first minister was confident China would take action against imitation spirits by the end of the year.

Mr Salmond discussed the issue with minister for quality supervision Wang Yong during his visit to China.

China is one of the fastest growing export markets for Scotch whisky, with direct exports worth £44m a year.

The Scotch whisky brand already enjoys some legal protection, but the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) wants a clampdown on foreign firms using Scottish imagery to sell their products.

The opportunity for Scotch whisky exports to China is enormous given its premium status and increases in disposable income
First Minister Alex Salmond

In 2007, the SWA applied to the Chinese government for geographical indication of origin status.

Since then it has investigated about 200 fake products in China.

Mr Salmond said he was confident the legal protection would soon be secured.

He said: "The indications are that China will lead the global economy out of recession, and expanding international trade with such a major market as China is an important aspect of sustainable recovery.

"The opportunity for Scotch whisky exports to China is enormous given its premium status and increases in disposable income among many millions of Chinese citizens, and securing better legal protection will establish a solid platform for growth."

SWA chief executive Gavin Hewitt welcomed the progress made in talks.

"Today's meeting marks a significant milestone in the process, and I believe that we can now look forward to achieving geographical indication of origin for Scotch whisky in China soon," he said.

But Tory chief whip David McLetchie said Scottish Government plans to introduce a minimum price for alcohol could lead to other countries imposing import tariffs on whisky.

He said: "The Scottish Government's plans for minimum pricing of alcohol will damage the Scotch whisky industry, one of Scotland's most iconic and successful industries.

"The first minister is quite simply wrong when he states that only low-quality, high-strength drinks will be affected by the minimum pricing proposals."

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