Boris’s Trade Secretary Confirms Powerful New British-American Trade Deal is ‘Top Priority’

Trade
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Boris Johnson’s Secretary of State for International Trade has confirmed that a British-American trade pact is one of her top Brexit priorities, after U.S. President Donald Trump expressed his desire to move things forward after years of stasis under Theresa May.

“[A]s we leave the EU, we’re going to strike the free trade deals that will open up new markets for our products, and give people access to a greater variety of goods and services from across the globe,” wrote Liz Truss, a former Remain supporter who replaced Leave supporter Liam Fox after Johnson’s elevation to the office of Prime Minister, in an article for The Telegraph.

“We will maintain existing trade agreements but also seize new opportunities – with Commonwealth countries, with which we share so much history, as well as with our other long-standing partners and a range of exciting new markets that are calling out for British products,” she promised, noting that her department has already “locked in deals covering £85 billion worth of trade, which will apply whether we leave the EU with a deal or without one” under her predecessor.

“My main priority now will be agreeing a free trade deal with the U.S., building on the successful phone call between the Prime Minister and President Trump,” she confirmed, adding that she would “be getting on a plane to the U.S. in the next few weeks to move this forward.”

The EU prevents its member-states from striking their own international trade deals through its Customs Union and associated Common External Tariff and Common Commercial Policy. Impeding Britain’s trade with the United States — the country’s single most profitable commercial relationship, according to the Office for National Statistics — and traditional partners like Australia and New Zealand, which were both economically damaged when the British were forced to erect new European barriers against them in the 1970s.

EU loyalists in Britain have often claimed that the country is actually better off letting the EU handle international trade on its behalf, as the bloc supposedly wields more “clout” than Britain could alone — but eurosceptics complain that British priorities are not shared by Brussels, which will not pursue deals which might be beneficial to the country if they would not be beneficial to, for example, France and Germany.

It is often argued that the United Kingdom is a poor fit for a single European trade policy, as its economy skews much more heavily towards services than other EU countries, and is much more “international” in general, being unusual in that it does a majority of its trade outside the bloc rather than inside.

Now, however, trade partners with which the EU has not negotiated any deals, forcing the British to deal with them under World Trade Organization (WTO) terms, are beating a path to Britain’s door as Brexit approaches, with President Trump in particular boasting that  “we can do with the UK, we can do three to four times — we were actually impeded by their relationship with the European Union; we were very much impeded on trade — and I think we can do three to four or five times what we’re doing” in terms of trade — proving that Leave campaigners were correct to dismissed Barack Obama’s claims that the British would be at “the back of the queue” for a U.S. deal if  they left the EU as scaremongering.

Ms Truss was keen to stress that the British government would “not be putting our NHS [National Health Service] up for sale” in such a deal, however — a peculiar obession of Remainers who fear (or claim to fear) that a British-American trade deal could see the state-run healthcare provider sold to U.S. corporations which would charge patients for medical treatment.

In fact, all that seems to be under discussion is whether U.S. firms should be able to bid NHS contracts put out to tender on the same terms as British firms — something EU firms can do already, without Remainers raising any objections — and President Trump has clarified that the NHS is something “I would not consider part of trade, that’s not trade” after a manufactured outcry over an off-hand remark in which he suggested everything was up for negotiation.

Follow Jack Montgomery on Twitter: @JackBMontgomery
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