US-UK trade deal negotiations start today when government stretched to limit
UK ministers are to start trade deal talks with the United States today, with Britain issuing the order to start formal negotiation despite the coronavirus pandemic that is stretching every government department to the limits. The first round of the talks will be held between UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.
“No10 gave the green light late this week for the talks to start,” a source close to the negotiations said.
“Both countries are committed to starting trade negotiations as soon as possible to reach a comprehensive free trade agreement in these unprecedented times,” a spokeswoman for Britain’s Department for International Trade said.
According to a Telegraph report last month, negotiations on the UK-U.S. free trade deal were stalled due to the virus outbreak.
Reacting to reports that US-UK trade talks are to restart virtually next week (1), Jean Blaylock, trade campaign and policy manager at Global Justice Now, said:
“This would be a high risk trade deal at the best of times, but to try and embark on negotiations in the midst of a pandemic crisis when government and society are stretched to the limit is reckless in the extreme.
Coronavirus has exposed the flaws in the pro-corporate agenda that this trade deal is intended to entrench – from weakening public services, to bringing the market into health care, driving up medicine prices and lowering safety standards. None of these changes will improve our lives.
Chlorinated chicken has become an iconic symbol of the risks to animal welfare and food standards from a US-UK trade deal. Yet it takes on even more significance at a time when the need for strong animal welfare and environmental standards to avoid future transmission of novel viruses from animals to humans is painfully clear.
Whatever Johnson and Trump’s rhetoric, the deal will have very little impact in getting the real economy going again. The most optimistic estimates predict at most a fraction of a percent in growth. All this type of deal will do is tie the hands of the government at a time when they need full scope to provide economic stimulus, a green recovery and to protect jobs.
We know both sides have already pledged to keep all the details secret not just during the negotiations but for five years afterwards. With this level of secrecy, parliament and the public will have no say on the deal being sewn up behind closed doors.”
In the meantime, things are not going well with Brexit negotiations. The EU’s chief negotiator has said there will be “no ambitious trade deal without an ambitious level playing field” over competition. This is a main sticking point, one that the EU has maintained throughout.
Michel Barnier said the UK had “failed to engage substantially” in trade talks for a deal when the transitional agreement ends on 31 December.
And he said the UK wanted a series of separate agreements, but Mr Barnier said this would lead to “duplication, inefficiencies and a lack of transparency”.
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