Launch of U.S.-U.K. talks seen in March, at earliest



Megan Cassella | POLITICO

Talks between the United States and the United Kingdom on a free trade agreement are expected to begin in March, Nile Gardiner, head of The Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, told Morning Trade. That comes despite news last week that U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not visit Washington until June, instead of in early 2020, as previously expected.

“I think [the negotiations are] going to move forward full speed ahead, despite the delay to the prime minister’s visit to Washington,” Gardiner said. The U.K. will release its U.S. negotiating objectives in March, and the two sides will begin negotiations later that month, the conservative commentator on British politics predicted.

Gardiner said he expected Johnson’s government to lay out its negotiating objectives for the EU in coming weeks, and then follow with its goals for the U.S. pact. After that, the two negotiations should proceed in parallel, with a goal of finishing both talks by year’s end, he said.

For the U.K., reaching a deal with the EU is the higher priority, since failing to do that would be far more disruptive than failing to reach a deal with the United States. Still, given the expected difficulty of the U.K.-EU talks, Gardiner said he could see a scenario where those talks fail, but the U.K. still reaches a deal with the United States.

Gardiner said he was skeptical of reports that Johnson is having second thoughts about pushing for a quick agreement with the United States. “My understanding is that U.S.-U.K. trade deal is a very top priority for the British government. I don’t think that has changed,” he said.

Emanuel Adam, executive director of BritishAmerican Business, a London-based business group, said it had been recently reassured that a U.S. trade deal remains high on Johnson’s trade agenda, even though some parts of the British government appear to be less keen on starting negotiations than the U.K.’s Department of International Trade.

A sweetheart deal?: Adam also noted that U.S. Ambassador to the U.K. Woody Johnson has been a relentless advocate for a bilateral free trade agreement. In that vein, Johnson took to Twitter on Valentine’s Day to express his hopes in verse. “Roses are red, but slightly cliché. What I want this year is A GREAT FTA!” Johnson wrote.


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