Bloomberg | 8 February 2021
UK favors comprehensive over quick US trade deal, envoy says
By Eric Martin
The U.K. wants to prioritize depth rather than speed in completing work on a free-trade agreement with the U.S., the nation’s ambassador said.
Britain anticipates that the Biden administration may want to add issues like labor and the environment to the agreement that the two nations began to negotiate under the Trump administration, Karen Pierce, the U.K. ambassador in Washington, said in an online event Monday. The nation also sees room to expand services trade, she said.
“We don’t want to get it done just for the sake of getting it done. We want a comprehensive deal rather than a quick one,” Pierce said at a virtual conference hosted by the Washington International Trade Association.
The U.S. and the U.K. were racing to reach a limited trade agreement before the Jan. 6 riots at the Capitol in Washington jeopardized plans to announce a deal within days, according to people briefed on the negotiations at the time. A so-called mini deal would have seen the U.S. end tariffs on some British imports, including on Scotch whisky, a month after London made a similar gesture to Washington.
The U.K. split from the European Union at the end of 2020, capping a 4 1/2-year political fight to go solo on matters including trade relations, and helping to make the talks for a partial tariff truce with the U.S. possible.
Earlier in December, Britain said it would unilaterally drop tariffs on U.S. goods in the longstanding transatlantic dispute over illegal aid to Boeing Co. and Airbus SE. While former U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer welcomed the move, he argued the tariffs were illegitimate in the first place.
President Joe Biden needs the Senate to confirm Katherine Tai, his pick to be the next USTR ambassador, and also faces the expiration of fast-track trade negotiating power delegated to the president by Congress. That ability, known as Trade Promotion Authority, expires July 1, and Biden would need to be close enough to a deal to notify Congress by April 1.