International trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan is targeting a ‘Canada 2.0’ trade deal following this week’s talks with the US that led to the dropping of tariffs on British steel and aluminium.
A buoyant Trevelyan said other countries were “queuing up” to sign deals with Britain and that “the rest of the world thinks the UK is amazing”.
The Daily Mail reports that the minister is targeting deals with the US, Israel, Mexico and India, as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Gulf Cooperation Council comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
Trevelyan will meet Canadian trade minister Mary Ng to try and progress from the rollover deal that Britain concluded with the country after Brexit.
Cheaper maple syrup
A new deal could boost the £19bn trade between the two countries and will be more focused on digital trade, she said.
The Sun reports that a deal with Canada would slash tariffs and red tape, meaning cheaper beef burgers, maple syrup and Canadian whisky in British shops.
Progress of other trade deals
Following claims from Trevelyan earlier in the year that 2022 will be a five-star year for international trade, how are other negotiations going?
State of play: The UK reached a major milestone in February to join one of the world’s largest free trade blocs when it moved into the second ‘market access’ phase of negotiations.
In this phase, the UK will agree new trading relationships with CPTPP countries, which could lead to 99.9% of UK exports to CPTPP being eligible for tariff-free trade.
It is hoped that the UK can join the group by the end of the year.
State of play: Trevelyan visited Israel last month and launched an eight-week consultation to seek the views of business and the public, ahead of negotiations starting later this year. Submissions should be made by 30 March.
The UK is Israel’s third largest trading partner, with £2.7 billion worth of British exports going there in 2020 and an overall trade relationship worth £4.8 billion.
State of play: In May 2021 prime ministers Boris Johnson and Narendra Modi of India agreed deeper trade co-operation through an ‘Enhanced Trade Partnership’ that removes a number of trade barriers and sets out the intention to work towards a free trade agreement.
The Ukraine crisis has led to some calls to put the talks on ice due to India’s economic and defence ties with Russia, reports Politico.
State of play: The first FTA the UK negotiated from scratch was signed on 16 December 2021.
The government published details of the free trade agreement this month for Parliament to consider the agreement before it is formally put forward for ratification. Parliament is not guaranteed a vote or debate but the government has said it will seek to accommodate any request for a debate.
The government is required to publish a report explaining whether the trade agreement is consistent with maintaining UK levels of statutory protection relating to human, animal and plant life or health, animal welfare and the environment.
The government is also required by statute to ask the Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) for advice.
State of play: The UK signed a free trade deal with New Zealand last month which the government said will boost trade between the two by 60%.
This deal is the most advanced agreement New Zealand has signed with any nation bar Australia and is claimed to be one of the UK’s greenest deals ever.
The International Trade Committee will examine how the agreement affects people and businesses across the UK, and the likely economic, social and environmental impacts of the deal. It has asked that the government ensures it has enough time to do this.
The Trade and Agriculture Commission (TAC) is seeking submissions on whether provisions in the UK-New Zealand FTA that relate to trade in agricultural products could affect the maintenance of UK regulatory standards in relation to animal or plant life or health, animal welfare, or environmental protection.
State of play: a deal with the UK’s single biggest individual country trading partner remains a key target for the government.
The UK finally reached an agreement to end steel and aluminium tariffs on its exports to the US yesterday (22 March) raising hopes that talks could begin on a wider deal.
However, according to the Daily Mail, US trade representative Katherine Tai has “dashed hopes” of striking a post-Brexit free trade deal by saying an agreement is not worth spending “years and a lot of blood, sweat and tears”.
Speaking at the press conference with Trevelyan, Tai said that a free trade deal was a “very 20th century tool”.
In the meantime, the UK is pursuing a twin-track strategy aiming at state-level deals as well.
State of play: the UK has a roll-over deal in place with Mexico and hopes to use this as a basis for a more comprehensive FTA, to be negotiated in 2022. The government has run a consultation asking for views on how trade could be improved or amended.
It was briefly mooted that the UK could try and join the US-Mexico-Canada trade deal as hopes of striking a swift standalone trade agreement with the US faded.
Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC)
State of play: in October 2021, the government launched a consultation on trade with the GCC – which represents Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The consultation ran until 14 January 2022. Negotiations for a free trade agreement are expected to start this year.
Boris Johnson visited Saudi Arabia recently to bolster economic and business ties between the two nations, despite concerns about the country’s human rights record.
The effect of the Ukrainian crisis on Russian oil and gas supplies has given new impetus to forging alliances with alternative suppliers and Johnson urged the Saudis to boost oil production. According to Bloomberg, a deal could be done by the end of the year.
British trade with the GCC was worth about £45bn in 2019, 7% of the size of Britain’s commerce with the EU in the same year. The EU and the GCC don’t have a free trade agreement in place, despite having been in talks for over 15 years.