US dashes UK hopes of a transatlantic post-Brexit free trade deal

US dashes UK hopes of a transatlantic post-Brexit free trade deal as Biden’s commerce chief says it is not worth spending ‘years and a lot of blood, sweat and tears working on’ – after ditching 25% tariffs on British steel

  •  Katherine Tai last night suggested transatlantic FTA was ‘very 20th century tool’
  • UK has spent years trying to get Trump and then Biden Administrations onside 
  • Tai said FTA ‘has its place’ but might not be ‘relevant to the needs of our people’

The United States has dashed Boris Johnson’s hopes of striking a post-Brexit free trade deal by saying an agreement is not worth spending ‘years and a lot of blood, sweat and tears’.

In an uncomfortable moment for Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, her US counterpart Katherine Tai last night used a joint press conference to suggested a commerce covenant was a ‘very 20th century tool’.

Britain has spent years trying to get first the Trump and then the Biden Administration to agree to a free trade deal that would represent a blue ribband moment for post-Brexit commerce.

But at the media event in Baltimore, Maryland, Ms Tai said that while an agreement ‘has its place in the toolbox’ it might not be ‘relevant to the needs of our people’.

She and Ms Trevelyan met as the US announced it was removing punitive tariffs on British steel and aluminium that have been in place since 2018.

In an embarrassing moment for Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, her US counterpart Katherine Tai last night used a joint press conference to dismiss a covenant as a ‘very 20th century tool’.


At the media event in Baltimore, Maryland, Ms Tai said that while an agreement ‘has its place in the toolbox’ it might not be ‘relevant to the needs of our people’.

In return, the UK will drop retaliatory tariffs on American brands such as Harley-Davidson.

The trade dispute has been a longstanding thorn in relations between the two allies.

Under Donald Trump, the US imposed a 25 per cent duty on foreign steel and 10 per cent tax on foreign aluminium. 

Before the press conference Ms Trevelyan had hoped formal negotiations on a US trade deal may begin by the end of this year, with expectations they could be completed within 18 months.

Ms Trevelyan last night said countries around the world are ‘queuing up’ to sign trade deals with Britain,  as she kickstarted negotiations with Canada.

The Trade Secretary is flying to Ottawa to launch formal talks on a ‘chunky’ new agreement to replace arrangements carried over from our membership of the EU.

In an interview with the Daily Mail, she revealed plans to sign a deal with Israel by the end of this year.

It will be the fourth ‘from scratch’ post-Brexit trade agreement, following successful negotiations with Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

Key targets now are the US, Mexico and India, as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which is a bloc of 11 Pacific nations, and the Gulf Cooperation Council comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

‘People are queuing up wanting to do trade deals with us, which I find very encouraging,’ Mrs Trevelyan said last night.

‘We do ourselves down, the rest of the world thinks the UK is amazing and they want to work with a trusted partner.’

The minister, whose ancestors moved from the Isle of Mull in Scotland to Canada where her father was born, will wear a suit she has made herself from her family’s ancient hunting tartan.

‘It’ll just be lovely to be the person who moves us into that next stage,’ she said.

Mrs Trevelyan, who has nicknamed the new deal ‘Canada 2.0’, said the continuity trade agreement rolled over from Britain’s member of the EU was ‘quite old fashioned’ and ‘not really very digital trade focused’.

‘This is an opportunity to take it to a much, much higher level,’ she added. ‘Looking at things like digital trade, which is such an important area.

By removing red tape, Mrs Trevelyan said the agreement would help ‘strip away costs for the consumer’ and ‘strip away cost and effort for business’.

British officials believe thousands of smaller firms will be encouraged to start trading with Canada if barriers can be removed, such as by simplifying paperwork

As well as security a trade with with Candian PM Justin Trudeau’s government, Number 10 wants to target deals with the US, Mexico and India – as well as deals with the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Mrs Trevelyan said the new agreement would open access for British firms to Canadian government procurement contracts, which will be ‘really big business for some of our really important construction and industrial service partners’.

‘There’ll be some really chunky stuff in there to discuss, which will be good and they’re really up for it, she continued.

‘That’s why they’re top of my pile because they’ve really leaned in and said we want to move to the next phase. So I’ve said: ‘OK you’re on’.’

Mrs Trevelyan will meet Canadian trade minister Mary Ng. Trade between the two countries is already worth £19billion.

She heads to Canada following two days of talks with her U.S. counterparts. Yesterday she met U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo to finalise a deal on removing punitive tariffs on British steel and aluminium that have been in place since 2018.

In return, the UK will drop retaliatory tariffs on American brands such as Harley-Davidson.

The trade dispute has been a longstanding thorn in relations between the two allies.

Mrs Trevelyan believes formal negotiations on a U.S. trade deal may begin by the end of this year, with expectations they could be completed within 18 months.

The Daily Mail revealed yesterday she believes there has ‘definitely’ been a change in approach from Joe Biden, who put talks on the backburner when he entered the White House.

After initially having ‘no appetite’ for a deal, she said his administration has now ‘leaned in’.

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