US-UK launch fresh round of trade talks

The governments in Washington and London were urged on Monday to be "laser focused" on improving conditions for businesses as the latest talks on the future of transatlantic trade got underway in Aberdeen.

us and uk trade
US Trade Representative Katherine Tai and UK International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan attended the second 'Dialogue on the Future of Atlantic Trade' amid reports that Britain was negotiating deals with individual American states after the Biden Administration put a free trade agreement with the UK on the political back-burner.

Will the UK and US prioritise smaller businesses in trade talks?

The Department for International Trade (DIT) in London said: "Discussions at the dialogue will provide a solid foundation for further engagement with the US. This includes ongoing work at a state-level such as mutual recognition of qualifications as well as continuing to remove barriers to trade."

But, addressing the opening session of the gathering, Shevaun Haviland, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), called on both governments to take an ambitious approach that prioritised sustainability and stable supply chains, and reduced costs for thousands of smaller businesses on both sides of the Atlantic.

“As a network, we are supportive of free and open trade, and of deeper relationships with our key international partners," she said.

“We welcome the opportunity to participate in this dialogue, shaping clear outcomes at this critical juncture as we recover from the pandemic but face now the consequences from the war in Ukraine.

“Trade is critical to our common economic recovery on both sides of the Atlantic – done right, it makes us more prosperous, more productive, raises investment and wage levels, and opens new horizons.

“But its opportunities have to be shared by everyone - across workforces and all the communities of the UK represented in the BCC and the US – from the industrial heart of Pennsylvania to the food manufacturers in the North East of Scotland.”
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The DIT said the meeting was intended to boost the £200 billion trade partnership with the US and was focused on agreed priority areas including digital and innovation, green trade, supporting SMEs and supply chain resilience.

Trade talks helps boost business with UK, Scotland and the US

Ms Trevelyan said: "This dialogue gives us a platform to explore more modern, digital ways of trading. It will identify and resolve barriers to trade to make it cheaper and easier for businesses in Scotland and throughout the UK to do business with our US friends.

"As two leaders in green innovation, it also gives us the opportunity to harness trade to tackle shared challenges such as climate change.”

“Trade” to help unlock a deal.

Meanwhile, the TUC and the AFL-CIO - the biggest union federations in the UK and the US, respectively - said the British government needed to grasp the importance of labour rights in trying to reach a deal with the US.

Frances O’Grady, general-secretary of the TUC, said the UK government had rushed into post-Brexit negotiations with countries that “readily abuse fundamental human and labour rights” such as Colombia and Turkey.

“Trade deals can lift labour standards, promote decent work and reduce inequality around the world. But the UK government has agreed too many deals that leave working people worse off,” she said.

“Enough is enough. It’s time for a truly worker-centred trade approach. That means meaningfully consulting with trade unions and acting on our concerns. Only then is the US government likely to consider closer trade ties with the UK.”

Eric Gottwald, trade policy specialist at the AFL-CIO, added: “For too long, the voices of working people have been shut out of trade negotiations or discussions. We need the TUC and its unions at the table to shape a fair agreement that lifts wages and standards on both sides of the Atlantic.”

In a joint statement, the groups said that under President Joe Biden, the US had increasingly involved protections for workers’ rights in trade negotiations, including in the latest US-Mexico-Canada agreement.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted in the Spring 2022 issue of Think Global People.

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