Bloomberg | 19 March 2021
UK-US trade talks can build on Trump’s plan, envoy says
By David Wainer
Trade talks with the U.S. will seek to build on “well-channeled lines” established during negotiations with the Trump administration while seeking to incorporate new priorities favored by President Joe Biden, the U.K. envoy to Washington said.
Ambassador Karen Pierce said British officials are eager to talk with newly confirmed U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai next week to further talks on a possible free trade agreement. Pierce, speaking Friday in an interview with David Westin on Bloomberg Television’s “Balance of Power,” said the two nations will discuss “whether there is scope to take the FTA forward in the short-term” and signaled an openness to considering additional issues in any final accord.
“We understand the new administration is very interested in labor and the environment, and if they want to put proposals to us in those areas we’d be very happy to consider those,” she said. “The free trade agreement as it’s drafted would actually be something of a groundbreaking framework for handling digital commerce and data.”
Tai’s appointment, confirmed by the Senate this week, gives fresh impetus to the talks. A trade deal with the U.S. would be a major prize for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is seeking to deepen economic relationships globally after the U.K.’s split from the European Union.
Pierce’s call with Tai comes after a recent boost to trans-Atlantic ties, with the suspension of tariffs on many products related to a dispute over illegal aircraft subsidies.
U.K. Trade Secretary Liz Truss has said the bulk of a trade pact with the U.S. is already agreed on and would boost both countries’ respective recoveries from the coronavirus pandemic.
Pierce, who took up her post in Washington just over a year ago, lamented that much of her diplomatic efforts in the U.S. so far have been done virtually due to the Covid-19 pandemic. She had previously served as the U.K.’s envoy to the United Nations since 2018.
Taking what she called a page from Biden’s playbook, Pierce said the U.K. wanted to show humility about its efforts to vaccinate the British population against the coronavirus.
“We didn’t get everything right during the pandemic,” she said, adding that the U.K. made smart investments early that are now paying off. The U.K. has administered about 28 million doses of the vaccine so far, enough to cover about 21% of the country’s population, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker.
Touching on other geopolitical priorities, Pierce said Friday that China is a key element in broader trade and national security concerns and praised the U.S. for coordinating with allies on China-related issues.
“We have held strategic discussions with the U.S. on China,” she said. “We want normal trading relations with China but it’s very hard to have that without a level playing field.”
Still, “it’s not all about competition,” she added. “If you want to tackle the big issues around the world such as health and climate, we need China.”