Prime minister Boris Johnson used his first phone call with US president Joe Biden to press the case for a trade deal between the UK and the US.
Their phone call on Saturday also touched on climate, Covid-19 and NATO, Politico reports. Boris Johnson’s office said the pair “discussed the benefits of a potential free deal between our two countries, and our prime minister reiterated his intention to resolve existing trade issues as soon as possible”.
Although Johnson was the first European leader to receive the prized call from Biden, the White House’s round up on the discussions did not mention trade at all, according to Bloomberg.
The US is the UK’s largest single-country trading partner, with trade between the two worth £221bn in 2019, according to HM Government. There are hopes that a fast track trade deal, talks around which started under the Trump administration, can be concluded before July when legislative change in the US will make it less likely.
However, senior UK officials told the FT that hopes are fading that a deal will happen in 2021 with US priorities lying firmly elsewhere.
American jobs first
Janet Yellen, Biden’s nominee for Treasury secretary, has reiterated that the Biden team will look to shore up the US economy before entering new trade deals.
“President Biden has been clear that he will not sign any new free trade agreements before the US makes major investments in American workers and our infrastructure,” she said.
The Wall Street Journal provided insight into Biden’s priorities, pointing to a focus on investment that steered away from opening markets for “companies whose investments abroad don’t directly boost exports or jobs at home”.
Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, who is likely to get a top trade job, has written that trade policy should “involve a laser focus on what improves wages and creates high-paying jobs in the United States, rather than making the world safe for corporate investment”.
Scotch whisky producers hope that the 25% retaliatory tariff imposed by the Trump administration in a tit-for-tat dispute over aviation subsidies can be resolved more quickly, the Times reports.
Exports of Scotch to the US have dropped by 30% since Trump’s tariffs started in October 2019. It is hoped that Biden, like Trump a teetotaller, will adopt a different stance.