The UK and US recently concluded the second round of trade negotiations. NFU EU exit and international trade adviser Tori Morgan reports on the state of play.
What has happened?
The UK and US have now held two rounds of virtual trade negotiations. While the first round focused on introductions and headline positions, negotiators were able to move into the detail in the second round.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss provided an update on the talks in her recent written ministerial statement, stating that talks “continue to be positive and constructive, with both sides committed to reaching an agreement”. She goes on to say that “the UK government continues to assert that there is no specific deadline for agreement, whatever is concluded must work for British people and economy,” a sentiment the NFU wholeheartedly supports. The statement also sets out that the government remains committed to protecting UK high animal welfare standards, protecting the NHS and seeking access for UK financial services.
Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic, Truss’s opposite number, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, recently gave evidence to the influential Ways and Means committee in US Congress. During his evidence he noted that it was “almost impossible” for the UK and US to reach an agreement before the Presidential election in November. He was bullish in setting out to Congress that any US deal with the UK would offer benefits (i.e. market access to the UK) for US farmers and described the EU SPS standards (standards which deal with human and animal/plant health) as “the highest art of protectionism”, making a clear case for dismantling them in order to secure access for US product.
What has the NFU been doing?
Over the past weeks and months the NFU has been working to analyse and evidence the key offensive and defensive issues for UK agriculture – something we will be setting out in a future blog article. We have been lobbying Defra and DIT at the highest level and meeting with UK trade negotiators, to ensure that agriculture is well represented during negotiations and that any future deal backs British farming. The NFU’s director of EU exit Nick von Westenholz has also appeared before both the House of Commons and the House of Lords parliamentary trade committees giving evidence on behalf of our members and making representation directly to MPs and Peers.
NFU members will have seen that the government has confirmed that it will be setting up a Trade and Agriculture Commission and we believe it will have a key role in ensuring UK farmers are not undercut by imports in ways that would be illegal here.
What happens next?
UK and US negotiators are now in the “off” period between negotiations. Ahead of the third round, scheduled for the end of July, negotiating teams are expected to exchange various legal texts in order to prepare for the next set of talks. Topics expected to be covered include areas such as market access, SPS and rules of origin.
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