UK-US trade talks to begin on Tuesday

04-05-2020

The UK will plough ahead with trade talks with the US on Tuesday as both nations insist that the negotiations will not be derailed by the coronavirus pandemic.

A video conference call will be held between Liz Truss, international trade secretary, and Robert Lighthizer, US trade representative.

The first round of negotiations will last for two weeks and will involve 200 officials. Future talks will take place every six weeks, according to officials.

The ability for the UK to strike trade deals with individual countries has always been seen as a major prize by the Eurosceptic politicians who led the campaign to leave the European Union in 2016.

The Department for International Trade has suggested that a successful deal with Washington could eventually boost the UK economy by £15bn a year.

The department says its analysis suggests that an FTA would benefit every region and nation of the UK with the greatest benefits in Scotland, the midlands and north-east.

However, the government has previously said that such a US deal could boost GDP between 0.07 per cent and 0.16 per cent, prompting claims from some trade experts that the net effect would be negligible compared to the loss of trade resulting from leaving the EU’s single market and customs union.

A cross-Whitehall study conducted in 2018 suggested that growth would be reduced by 2 to 8 per cent in the same period as a result of Brexit.

The UK talks will be led by Oliver Griffiths, director of US negotiations at the DIT, and overseen by Crawford Falconer, chief trade negotiation adviser for the department.

Ms Truss said she would “drive a hard bargain” to secure a deal that benefited the UK and help the economy bounce back from the economic challenges posed by Covid-19.

“We want to strike an ambitious deal that opens up new opportunities for our businesses, brings in more investment and creates better jobs for people across the whole of the country,” she said.

Washington is expected to demand a relaxation on some regulations in agribusiness, such as allowing imports of chlorinated chicken, which could prove politically unpalatable. Ms Truss has previously said that maintaining food standards is a “red line” for the UK.

Donald Trump, US president, initially said that access to the National Health Service would be “on the table” during the talks, only to distance himself from those comments a few months later.

In early March, the UK government released its negotiating objectives document in which it said that boosting trade for small and medium companies was a priority.

Although the primary focus is on goods, the UK is hopeful of boosting trade in digital services. The UK also hopes to secure an early deal on financial services and will run talks in parallel on improving ties between the City of London and Wall Street.

Source: FT