Looming end-date of Trump's trade promotion body looks set to scupper US-UK trade deal

Fri 26 Mar 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

uk-us trade

The chances of fast-tracking a UK-US trade deal through Congress are receding as the body set up to speed progress of such agreements is coming to an end. 

The Trade Promotion Authority – established by the Trump administration to accelerate the passing of trade deals through Congress – will expire at the end of the month, the FT reports. This raises the prospect of a more difficult passage on Capitol Hill.

America first

As reported in the IOE&IT Daily Update, Boris Johnson had pinned post-Brexit hopes on a quick trade deal with President Trump. These hopes were transferred to the Biden administration, but progress slowed as the new president said that US economic recovery would be a priority over new trade deals.

FT sources said the UK-US deal has been held up as the Biden team has focused on resolving the long-running Boeing-Airbus dispute. China’s ambitions as a global player in aerospace has given the goal of achieving a settlement greater urgency.

Tai-Truss talks

New US trade representative Katherine Tai has discussed her “ongoing review” of the US-UK trade talks with UK trade secretary Liz Truss, as reported in the IOE&IT Daily Update.

Despite warm words on collaboration, climate change, and working with the WTO, UK officials are pessimistic about the deal being able to get through Congress without attracting time-consuming amendments from lawmakers representing agricultural states.

However, the UK still believes a free trade deal was possible. “If the political will is there on both sides, it can be done,” a Truss aide said. “The mood music is pretty good on things like whisky tariffs, reforms of the World Trade Organization and China.” 

Four-month window

Earlier this month, the US agreed a four-month suspension on tariffs, including on whisky as the two nations looked to “focus on negotiating a balanced settlement to the disputes”.

The Scotch Whisky Association has estimated that the 25% tariff on single malt Scotch whisky had caused exports to the US to fall by 35% in the 16 months it has been in place.

Marco Forgione, director general of the Institute of Export & International Trade, said it was great news for UK exporters.

“Scotch whisky, cashmere, cheese and machinery are important products – for Brand Britain, for employment and for the economy,” he said.