Liz Truss with US Trade Representative Ambassador Robert Lighthizer
New figures showed a £15.3 billion surge in trans-Atlantic commerce following an agreement to slash tariffs and quotas would have a significant impact on the UK’s annual economic growth. Manufacturers of ceramics, cars and food and drink, and professional services including architects and lawyers would be among the biggest winners from tariff-free access to US markets, the research showed.
Officials at the Department for International Trade released the forecast last night ahead of the publication of the Government’s negotiating objectives in the push for a US trade deal today.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss will set out details of the mandate for the talks to MPs at Westminster today.
A Whitehall document is to spell out that any future agreement with the White House must protect the NHS and uphold the UK’s standards on food safety and animal welfare.
The agreement will also include a chapter on digital trade, to maximise opportunities for businesses to trade digitally across the Atlantic.
Last night, Boris Johnson said: “We have the best negotiators in the business and of course, we’re going to drive a hard bargain to boost British industry.
“Trading Scottish smoked salmon for Stetson hats, we will deliver lower prices and more choice for our shoppers.
“Most importantly, this transatlantic trade deal will reflect the unique closeness of our two great nations.”
Ms Truss said: “Striking ambitious free trade agreements with our partners around the world is one of the key opportunities of Britain becoming an independent trading nation once again.
“This deal with our biggest single trading partner will cut red tape for our small businesses, cut tariffs for our great products from dairy to cars and increase growth in all four nations.”
The UK negotiating team will be overseen by Crawford Falconer, the department’s Chief Trade Negotiation Adviser and a former New Zealand Chief Negotiator and ambassador to the World Trade Organisation.
Discussions will alternate between the UK and US. Although a trade deal cannot be signed until the UK formerly leaves EU regulations when the post-Brexit transition period concludes at the end of the year, the Government has been free to discuss future deals with other trading partners since leaving the bloc in January.
Ministers will set out negotiating objectives for future trade deals with Australia, Japan and New Zealand shortly.
Mr Johnson wants at least four fifths of total UK external trade covered by free trade agreements by 2022.
Mike Cherry, National Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “The UK is the number one individual country that UK small businesses are looking to as they consider where to trade, with 46% of UK small and medium enterprise exporters prioritising the US market over the next three years.
“This shows the sheer scale of ambition that will be unleashed, if we can take full advantage of the opportunities a Free Trade Agreement will open up.”
National Farmers’ Union President Minette Batters yesterday said the US trade negotiations were “a moral compass test for some in Government.”
Interviewed on the Sky News Sophy Ridge on Sunday show, she said: “It is absolutely fundamental that we do not open up our borders, effectively, to cheap raw ingredients that would be illegal to produce here.
“The British consumer really values animal welfare and environmental protection as well as food safety.
“So, those imports have to meet the same standards that we have here.
“This is a moral compass test for some in Government. We know that not everybody in Government values that, but I will continue to make the case.”
Meanwhile, France’s Europe minister yesterday warned the EU-UK trade negotiations risked becoming “nasty”.
Amelie de Montchalin insisted the UK will not secure a free trade with Brussels unless Mr Johnson agrees to allow continuing access to UK territorial waters for European fishing vessels.
She said: “We said that there are four topics which are linked in negotiations. What I want to say that on fish and other topics, all we play it with emotion, with drama, with passion, with symbols and we know how to make it a very I think nasty battle.
Ms de Montchalin said there was a risk the talks could become “a very nasty battle where politicians in the UK, politicians in France are put in the situation where things get very difficult”.
She said: “At the end we will both lose.”
She added: “This is not a battle. This is very serious. This is a moment where we need economic rationality.
“It’s not the moment where if, you know, British lose, French or Europeans will win.
“At the end we need to protect our citizens, we need to protect our businesses, we need to be – as politicians – able to look the people that voted for us in the eyes, and say very calmly: we protected you, we protected your interests, we protected your way on leaving and move forward.”