A trade accord with the United States has been touted as a potential benefit of Britain leaving the European Union, and it will be on the agenda Tuesday when Trump meets
Prime Minister Theresa May and business leaders.
Britain can’t open negotiations with potential partners until after it leaves the European Union, but the country’s plans for Brexit are in tatters and May is about to stand down
. What happens next is anyone’s guess.
Once formal discussions on a US-UK trade deal
can start, they’re likely to last years and could be doomed by a thorny set of political issues.
“Under the current state of play, there really isn’t much investment in this at all,” said Marc Busch, a professor of international business diplomacy at Georgetown University.
Big relationship, big hurdles
The European Union is Britain’s largest economic partner, accounting for 49.4% of its trade. The United States ranks second, with 14.7% of total UK trade in goods and services.
Trade between the two countries topped $262 billion in 2018, according to US data. US exports of goods and services totaled $141 billion, producing a modest surplus of $20 billion. Investments total about $1 trillion, and 1 million people in each country are employed by companies from the other.
The White House said Monday that Trump is eager to make economic ties even stronger “through an ambitious new trade agreement.” Trump added Tuesday that the deal would be “substantial” and “very fair.”
Yet many of the demands made by the Trump administration, which has taken a confrontational approach to trade with both rivals and allies, appear to be non-starters in Britain.
Woody Johnson, the US ambassador to the United Kingdom, said in a BBC interview
on Sunday that all parts of the economy will be “on the table.”
That includes contentious sectors like agriculture. The Trump administration has said that it wants to secure “comprehensive access” for agricultural goods in Britain by reducing or eliminating tariffs.
Yet scrapping those barriers could open Britain’s door to genetically modified crops and animal feed with antibiotics, which are banned in the European Union but common in the United States.