The UK “has been clear it

will not sign a trade deal that will compromise our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food safety standards” said a government spokesman, adding

that, under existing EU regulations, chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef are not permitted for import into the UK – a ban that will be enshrined in UK law at the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31.

THE NHS AND US TRADE TALKS Then there is the problem of Britain’s National Health Service (NHS), which currently uses its dominant market position to buy pharmaceuticals cheaply from the US and whose services the Americans want to open up to competition from private companies. Yet are these really the issues that should be proving

such a headache in the negotiations? Certainly not, according to an outspoken editorial in the Wall Street Journal in late August, which said a deal has become harder to reach “for all the wrong reasons”. The opinion piece added: “What should be causing

the hold-up are the contentious elements involved in any high quality, free trade pact. The two sides should be haggling over banking regulations that would facilitate free trade in fi nancial services. They ought to be ironing out mutual recognition of professional qualifi cations so British and American architects, engineers, accountants and the like can work freely on either side of the Atlantic. There should be reciprocal recognition of product- safety rules and inspections. “Yet nary a word is heard about those issues. Instead,

the problems are political own-goals on both sides, but primarily in the UK. Agricultural trade remains a needless sticking point.” And on the deadlock over the NHS, the newspaper

said, “London’s resistance to any liberalisation, market forces or private investment in healthcare will make it that much harder for Washington to sign a deal – even though the NHS delivers awful healthcare outcomes compared to the rest of Europe, and calls out for reform.”

THE IMPACT OF A NO-DEAL BREXIT Meanwhile, the US Chamber of Commerce – the nation’s largest business lobby group – has another concern: it wants to see the UK reach a bilateral trade deal with the European Union as swiftly as possible, saying a failure to do so could limit investment fl ows and pose risks to US-UK trade talks. In a statement earlier this year, the organisation

advised the UK to redefi ne its relationship with the EU before embarking on trade deals with other nations. It said eliminating tariff s between Britain and the EU would boost the long-term outlook for both Britain and the United States at a time when both economies were suff ering from the coronavirus pandemic. The chamber wants to see an EU-UK deal reached

before the end of the year, saying American exporters and investors “are keen to avoid” a no-deal Brexit, adding: “A strong partnership agreement between the UK and EU will boost the resiliency of both economies – more crucial than ever in the wake of the pandemic and economic crisis.” And if the US Chamber of Commerce believes

the UK should be looking at Europe before it looks at America, then many believe that, should Mr Biden


emerge triumphant in November’s poll, he might well look towards Asia-Pacifi c for a trade deal before he looks towards London. Ian Shapiro, Sterling Professor of Political Science

at the Yale School of Management, believes a Biden administration would be more enthusiastic about resurrecting “Obama’s big unfi nished piece of business” and sealing a deal with the Far East ahead of reaching any agreement with the UK. That could mean the US rejoining the 11-nation

Trans-Pacifi c Partnership trade agreement (now renamed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacifi c Partnership, or CPTPP), which Mr Trump scrapped by executive order early in 2017. Coincidentally – or maybe not – the UK wants to

join the CPTPP too, and Liz Truss recently put the importance of the government’s eff orts to join the bloc on a par with a deal with the US. “The assumption in Whitehall is that if Biden wins, we won’t need to do a bilateral trade deal because we might both end up in CPTPP. That is already committed to high standards of animal welfare. Some of the sting will be removed from those issues,” a Conservative Party insider told the Sunday Times. However, a spokesman for the Biden presidential

campaign told reporters that if the Democrat won, he would not go into offi ce in January and “start talking about re-entering or about entering new trade deals before he has done the work at home to make the investments in American job creation, American competitiveness and American communities”. Even so, it has been reported in The Times that Boris

Johnson dispatched delegates in the summer to discuss with members of the Biden campaign the possibility of progressing trade talks in the event of Mr Trump’s re- election bid failing.

KNOWN UNKNOWNS There again, if you go back to September last year, both London and Washington were distinctly bullish about the two nations’ chances of reaching a speedy trade agreement, possibly as early as July this year. But all that has changed and even the most optimistic are talking about 2021 at the earliest. “It’s going to take time, to be honest,” Robert

Lighthizer, the current US trade representative, told an Economics Club of New York event in the summer. “We’ve been clear that there is no specifi c timeframe

[for a deal],” said a Department for International Trade spokesman in London. “Our focus is on getting a deal that works in the best interests of the UK.” Or, as Ian Shapiro puts it: “The extreme

unpredictability of American policy until after the election means what might or might not be available from the US to the UK is just inherently unknowable.”

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