UK ministers had hoped to agree ‘foundational trade partnership’ before both countries head to polls
Ministers have given up on signing a trade agreement with the US before the next election, after the Biden administration signalled it had no interest in agreeing one.
British officials had been hoping to agree a “foundational trade partnership” before both countries head to the polls in the next 12 months, having already decided not to pursue a full-blown free trade agreement.
However, sources briefed on the talks say they are no longer taking place, thanks to reluctance among senior Democrats to open US markets to more foreign-made goods. The story was first revealed by Politico.
A British government spokesperson said: “The UK and US are rapidly expanding cooperation on a range of vital economic and trade issues building on the Atlantic declaration announced earlier this year.” Multiple sources, however, confirmed the foundational trade partnership was no longer on the table.
Vote Leave campaigners said giving the UK the freedom to sign bilateral trade agreements with other countries would be one of the biggest benefits of Brexit, with a US trade deal often held up as the biggest prize of all.
Talks over a free trade agreement stalled early on, however, thanks in part to resistance from Democratic members of Congress and concerns in the UK about opening up UK markets to chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-injected beef.
Earlier this year, the Guardian saw documents outlining how Washington and London could instead coordinate over a partnership covering digital trade, labour protections and agriculture. The deal would not have included lower barriers for service companies, meaning it fell short of a fully fledged free trade deal, but could have paved the way for one in the future.
Sources say the deal was always likely to prove difficult to finalise, in part because the US still wanted greater access for their agricultural products. The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, said at a food security summit earlier this year that he would not allow either chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-injected beef into the UK.
It also became clear in recent weeks that the Biden administration had no interest in signing any kind of a deal before the election, given how Donald Trump had weaponised international trade agreements during his first run for president.
A spokesperson for Ron Wyden, the Democratic chair of the Senate finance committee, told Politico: “It is Senator Wyden’s view that the United States and United Kingdom should not make announcements until a deal that benefits Americans is achievable.”
Source : The Guardian