The UK has threatened to impose punitive duties on US goods if the administration of President Joe Biden does not lift Trump-era tariffs on British steel and aluminium.
This point of tension in the Washington DC meeting this week between UK trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan and US trade representative Katherine Tai emerged after friendly communiques about the talks had been issued.
Tariffs on US whiskey
The FT last night reported that Trevelyan told US officials she was looking to expand the range of US products that could be subject to punitive tariffs – including an increase in existing duties on US goods such as whiskey, cosmetics and clothing.
Trevelyan had hoped to persuade the US to remove the Section 232 ‘Trump tariffs’ on British steel and aluminium, dating from 2018, after the US removed the levies for EU exporters, but not for those in the UK.
“We don’t want to use countervailing measures, but we’re getting a lot of pressure domestically to say that this is unfair,” the FT quotes a senior UK official as saying.
NI Protocol link
In November the UK government denied reports that the US would maintain tariffs on British steel and aluminium as long as the UK continues to threaten triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol, saying the two issues were “entirely separate”.
The FT reports that while in Washington DC, Trevelyan met with leading Democrat Richard Neal, a member of the Congressional “Friends of Ireland” caucus. Neal emphasised support for the Good Friday Agreement as well as a desire to deepen trade and investment links with the UK.
In a public consultation held last year, the UK suggested it could target lobsters, grapes, chocolate, orange juice and electric motors imported from the US.
With no sign of a full free trade deal with the US anytime soon, the UK will prioritise trade deals with individual US states like California and New York, trade minister Penny Mordaunt said last month.