From the TUC

Is #Brexit Britain at the front of the queue for a US trade deal, or the end of the line?

14 Mar 2017, by in International

When Prime Minister Theresa May visited newly inaugurated US President Donald Trump in January, Brexit supporters were cock-a-hoop about how post-Brexit Britain would be at the front of the queue for a trade deal with the US Trade Representative (USTR – not that there was one when Mrs May went to Washington – indeed Trump’s pick still hasn’t been confirmed). This was in sharp contrast to President Obama’s intervention in the UK referendum campaign where he said we’d have to wait our turn.

So it’s good to see how much emphasis is placed on a US-UK trade deal in President Trump’s 2017 Trade Policy Agenda, released last week. Oh, hang on. None. Nothing. We don’t even rate a mention.

There is no list of countries that the President identifies as priorities for trade deals in fact, although there is plenty of criticism of China, and of existing trade agreements with Canada and Mexico (NAFTA) and South Korea, as well as confirmation of the US decision to pull out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But a deal with the UK? Not on the cards, it seems, nothing even about talks about talks.

What you will find, however, is a more aggressively pro-American trade policy (described on the USTR website’s home page as “America First”) and a conclusion that

“in too many instances, Americans have been put at an unfair disadvantage in global markets. Under these circumstances, it is time for a new trade policy that defends American sovereignty, enforces U.S. trade laws, uses American leverage to open markets abroad, and negotiates new trade agreements that are fairer and more effective … for the United States”

Of course, ‘be careful what you wish for’ is a useful caution when considering a future trade agreement with the USA. The TUC has been opposed for several years to the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) that the EU has been seeking to negotiate with the US, and a deal with Trump’s administration would probably be even worse.

But if we’re going to see trade with the rest of the EU decline after Brexit – and you don’t have to subscribe to Project Fear to anticipate some reduction, especially if we leave the single market and the customs union – we need to increase our trade with someone. Doesn’t look like President Trump thinks it would be a particularly big deal though…