Boris Johnson talks tough before US trade talks

PM maintains that NHS is not on the table and animal welfare standards won’t drop

Boris Johnson has said he will drive a hard bargain as the UK outlined its negotiating objectives for the forthcoming trade talks with the US.

Despite fears that disagreements between London and Washington could obstruct the launch of the negotiations, a government press release claimed the prime minister wanted to open up opportunities for British businesses and investors while also ensuring the NHS was not for sale via the desired free trade agreement.

In an acknowledgement of deep concerns among the British electorate that the US will demand access to the NHS, the government stated once again that it remains committed to keeping the health service universal and free at the point of use.

The British team also wants to guarantee high standards and protections for British consumers and workers, including on animal welfare.

Johnson said: “Trading Scottish smoked salmon for Stetson hats, we will deliver lower prices and more choice for our shoppers.

“Most importantly, this transatlantic trade deal will reflect the unique closeness of our two great nations.”

A major point of conflict between the two countries has been Johnson’s decision to give Huawei access to the UK’s 5G system.

Ministers have repeatedly faced demands to rule out chlorinated chicken and hormone-treated beef being imported from the US in any deal, with animal welfare and environmental concerns raised.

The government are preparing to publish its negotiation mandate with the US on Monday.

The talks will take place in parallel alongside negotiations with the EU over a post-Brexit relationship.

Trade union leaders have urged Downing Street not to “cosy up” to Donald Trump during the talks, calling on the prime ministers to block any US manoeuvring to lower food standards.

The Department for International Trade said it expected manufacturers of ceramics, cars, food and drink, and professional services to be among the British industries to benefit the most from tariff-free access to the US market.

Crawford Falconer, a senior DIT adviser and formerly New Zealand’s chief negotiator, will oversee talks on the UK side.

Negotiating rounds will alternate between the two countries.

Following Britain’s divorce from Brussels in January, it is now free to strike global trade deals.

It remains to be seen if the US and the UK can end their differences over a planned digital services tax or the fate of the Iranian nuclear deal.

Liz Truss, the international trade secretary, said striking ambitious free trade agreements was one of the key opportunities of Britain becoming an independent trading nation.

“This deal with our biggest single trading partner will cut red tape for our small businesses, cut tariffs for our great products from dairy to cars and increase growth in all four nations.”

Carolyn Fairbairn, the Confederation of British Industry’s director general, said: “It’s encouraging to see the government’s ambitions to make it easier for skilled people to move between the UK and US, support small business exporters and future-proof any agreement around industries of the future.”


Rajeev Syal

The GuardianTramp

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