Thu, Aug 08, 2019 - Page 6 News List

UK ministers in US to ‘fast-track’ deal


Britain yesterday was seeking to fast-track a crucial post-Brexit trade deal with the US after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson dispatched his top diplomat and foreign trade minister to Washington.

British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Dominic Raab was due to hold talks yesterday with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, while British Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss has lined up meetings with top trade officials.

With Johnson determined to ensure Britain leaves the EU on Oct. 31, striking some kind of trade accord with the US has taken on even greater importance.

US President Donald Trump has said that trade between the two nations could multiply once Britain leaves the EU and spoke to Johnson about a deal within days of his taking office last month.

“Negotiating and signing an exciting new free-trade agreement with the US is one of my top priorities,” Truss said. “Having already laid the groundwork, we are fast-tracking this deal so that businesses are able to take advantage of the golden opportunity to increase trade with the US as soon as possible.”

Truss met on Tuesday with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.

After his first telephone call with Johnson, Trump told reporters that a bilateral deal with post-Brexit Britain could be “three to four, five times” bigger than current trade and once London is out of the EU “we could do much more.”

Johnson is hoping that he can clinch a swift deal that can send a message of Britain’s ability to strike out on its own.

However, there are warnings that Johnson’s willingness to leave the EU without a negotiated settlement with Britain’s longtime partners would play into the hands of Trump, who prides himself on being a master negotiator.

Former US secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers said that Britain could not mask the weakness of its hand.

“Look at it from America’s point of view: Britain has much less to give than Europe as a whole did, therefore less reason for the United States to make concessions,” he told BBC Radio 4 earlier this week. “You make more concessions dealing with a wealthy man than you do dealing with a poor man.”

Last year, the US ran a US$20 billion trade surplus with Britain. The two nations exchanged US$262 billion in goods and services, according to the US Trade Representative’s office, meaning Britain was the US’ fifth-largest export market.

Top US exports are financial services and aircraft, while British exports include vehicles and tourism.

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