U.K. Trade Secretary Downplays Outlook for U.S. Trade Deal Soon

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The U.K.’s top trade negotiator said that the nation is focused on getting the “right deal” with the U.S. rather than clinching a quick one, downplaying hopes for an agreement anytime soon.

“I have never set a deadline for any trade negotiation, because the important thing is to get the right deal that works for both countries,” International Trade Secretary Liz Truss said in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Tuesday. Reaching an agreement by the end of 2021 would be “a very rapid timeline” and “extremely fast,” she said.

President Joe Biden lost his legal power to fast-track a deal through Congress earlier this month. Bloomberg News previously reported that the two nations were unlikely to be ready to strike a deal before 2023, with the Biden administration focused on other priorities such as China and investing in domestic programs to boost the U.S. economy.

Expectations for a trade deal between the two nations have diminished significantly from 2019, when President Donald Trump told Prime Minister Boris Johnson “I think we’ll make a fantastic and big trade deal with the U.K. That’s moving along rapidly.” Johnson himself talked of a U.S. trade agreement as the biggest prize once the U.K. would leave the European Union and complete the Brexit process.

While Truss had previously said that the majority of a trade text with the U.S. has been agreed, the most controversial elements of a deal -- like access for U.S. agricultural products such as chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-treated beef -- are yet to be negotiated.

Truss said she’s in discussions with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo regarding so-called section 232 national-security tariffs on steel, which the British government has pressed the Biden administration to remove. The nations last month reached a truce in a dispute involving Airbus SE and Boeing Co., agreeing to a five-year suspension on tariffs affecting various goods.

Truss met Tai on Tuesday, with the two trade leaders agreeing to work together both bilaterally and through multilateral fora to promote fair competition, enhance the international trade system, and address forced-labor issues, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative said in a statement.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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