U.K. Sees U.S. Trade Deal More Likely Next Year Than in 2020

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The U.K. accepts it is unlikely to secure a trade deal with the U.S. before November’s presidential election, a setback for Boris Johnson’s effort to secure an early win from leaving the European Union.

Britain is more likely to conclude negotiations with the U.S., its largest trading partner, in January rather than this year after the coronavirus slowed the progress of discussions, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

While the U.K. has never set a formal deadline for securing a U.S. trade deal, the delay is a blow to Johnson’s goal of showing the U.K. can reap the rewards of Brexit by striking new free trade deals around the world.

The talks have been beset by disagreements over agriculture in particular. The U.S. is seeking increased market access -- but U.K. politicians, officials and farmers are wary of allowing controversial products such as chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated beef to enter the country.

The person described the talks so far as positive and characterized the relationship between U.K. International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and her U.S. counterpart, Robert Lighthizer, as warm.

Still, Truss and Lighthizer have in recent weeks both downplayed expectations of a quick deal.

Lighthizer told the the House Ways and Means Committee last month that there is “still a long way to go” to reach a deal, which is “unlikely” to be sealed in 2020. The same month, Truss told a House of Commons panel there is no timetable for completing the talks.

“We are concentrating on getting a good deal rather than meeting any particular negotiation timetable,” Truss said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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