Climate change the key to US-UK trade deal?

Trade deals did not feature in Joe Biden's "to do" list as he moved into the White House on Wednesday afternoon. Perhaps that was not surprising for a new president whose pressing priorities centre on economic recovery and the coronavirus pandemic.

However, Mr Biden did emphasise the importance of tackling global warming, as demonstrated by his commitment to reverse his predecessor's decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change.And it could be that environmental standards become key to any future trade deals the US enters in to. “The Biden administration wants to have a trading system where people are not advantaged by declining to follow through on commitments they've made to any number of issues, but notably on climate change in the 2015 Paris Agreement,” Daniel Esty, a professor who specialises in environment and trade policy at Yale Law School, told the Washington Post. Which, no doubt, is why Prime Minister Boris Johnson is reportedly ready to add new climate change guarantees to negotiations with the US over a trade deal with the UK - something so-called 'Global Britain' would dearly like after its withdrawal from the European Union.Not that Mr Biden is a fan of Brexit anymore than he now is of the EU following Brussel's  decision to enter into an investment agreement with China.Talks over a deal between the US and UK formally started last May but have made little progress and, in a recent interview with the New York Times, Mr Biden indicated there was little likelihood of the US striking a full trade deal with the UK in the near future.Lord Kim Darroch, who stepped down as British ambassador in Washington 18 months ago, agrees that such a deal would appear unlikely to be done soon.“Biden has said in the last few weeks that doing trade deals is not a priority for him for at least the first part of his presidency and my guess is that certainly covers the next 12 months, it may cover the next 24 months,” he said.
“When he comes to do one, there are two much bigger trade deals that he could potentially do, rather than a deal with a medium-sized country of 65 million people.“One is he could resume the talks that never finished in Obama's time on an EU-US free trade deal and the other is that he could take America into the Trans-Pacific Partnership (which Mr Trump withdrew from), which is potentially a huge advantage for America and would start to counter Chinese influence in that region."But Dame Karen Pierce, the current ambassador in Washington, has struck a more optimistic note saying a deal with the US was top of the UK's trade agenda. It would be a deal, she added, that would include provisions on small enterprises and digital commerce that would be “standard-bearers” for future agreements.And in words that would have struck just the right note in Mr Biden's White House, she highlighted that the two nations' shared goals from now on would be focused on climate change and post-pandemic economic recovery.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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