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U.S., UK Anticipate Post-Brexit FTA

Tuesday, July 17, 2018
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The leaders of the U.S. and the United Kingdom said after a July 13 meeting that their countries plan to pursue a bilateral free trade agreement once the UK formally leaves the European Union in March 2019. Lower-level officials met recently to discuss specific trade-related items that could factor into future FTA talks.

Prime Minister Theresa May said she and President Trump agreed to pursue an “ambitious” FTA that will build on the UK’s independent trade policy, reduce tariffs, deliver “a gold standard” in financial services cooperation, and “seize the opportunity of new technology.” Trump said his goal is for the two partners to trade without any restrictions, which could “double, triple, quadruple” the current level of two-way trade.

May denied reports that her most recent plan for withdrawing the UK from the EU would limit London’s ability to negotiate FTAs with other countries. She asserted that once Brexit is complete the UK will no longer be in the EU customs union and will therefore have an independent trade policy, which it will use to “do a trade deal” with the U.S. and other countries. Although he reportedly said a day earlier that May’s plan “will probably kill” chances for a U.S.-UK FTA, Trump said after talks with May that he has no preference for what the UK-EU relationship ultimately looks like and is only concerned that the UK is “going to be able to trade with the United States.”

Ahead of the two leaders’ meeting the U.S.-UK Trade and Investment Working Group met in London July 10-11. According to a press release from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, this group is working to provide commercial continuity for businesses, workers, and consumers as the UK leaves the EU and to lay the groundwork for a potential future FTA. Toward that end last week’s meeting covered topics such as industrial and agricultural goods, services and investment, digital trade, intellectual property rights, regulatory issues, and small and medium-sized enterprises.

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