Britain could become “the Singapore of the western world” if she seizes upon the opportunities currently before her, a former chief White House trade negotiator has said.
Speaking ahead of the Prime Minister’s planned visit to meet with President Donald J. Trump in Washington, D.C. this week, Susan Schwab, U.S. trade representative under former President George W. Bush, said Britain was in a “unique position to create a whole new template for free trade agreements,” The Times has reported.
She added: “The challenge will be coming up with a model that will work with both the US and the EU.”
But with the two entities heading in opposite directions on trade – the EU clinging to its preferred model of large multilateral trade blocs while Trump has indicated a move toward bilateral trade agreements – Britain is likely to have to choose which it would rather align itself with.
In Washington, D.C., the expectation is that the UK will take a stance closer to that of the United States. A Republican insider said: “The UK has a golden chance to break free from the EU’s protectionism — all the restrictions that come from having to protect France’s farmers.”
However, at the World Economic Forum in Davos last week May told delegates “we are all united in our belief that that world will be built on the foundations of free trade, partnership and globalisation.
“Yet beyond the confines of this hall, those forces for good that we so often take for granted are being called into question. The forces of liberalism, free-trade and globalisation […] are somehow at risk of being undermined.”
May said that “across Europe” parties of the “far left and far right” who “embrace the politics of division and despair” are exploiting a sense among poorer people in Western countries that “these forces are not working for them”.
Her answer is to build a “truly Global Britain” which will be the “strongest and most forceful advocate for business, free markets and free trade anywhere in the world”.
Yet she failed to defend free trade when quizzed by the BBC’s Andrew Marr on the weekend. Probing May as to what the alternative to a “bad deal” with Brussels might be, Marr put it to May that she was “suggesting that we’ll be some kind of off shore Singapore with low tax rates, low regulation, low workers’ rights”. He added: “Is that really an option?”
May replied: “We want to negotiate a good deal with the European Union when we leave for our trading relations. For the sake of our economies, I think it will be for the sake of theirs too.”
May will arrive in the U.S. today to meet with senior congressional Republicans in Philadelphia, and is scheduled to meet with Trump on Friday.