Wednesday, 4 March 2020

The Department for International Trade's Proposals for a US-UK Free Trade Agreement

Jane Lambert

According to the Department for International Trade, "[a free trade agreement] with the US represents significant opportunities throughout the economy, from agriculture to professional services. Potential benefits include better jobs, higher wages, more choice and lower prices for all parts of the UK." On 2 March 2020 the Department set out its approach to trade negotiations, negotiating objectives, response to a public consultation on a UK-US trade agreement and a preliminary assessment of the long-term impacts of a bilateral trade agreement between the UK and the US in a 184-page document entitled  UK-US Free Trade Agreement.

The document consists of an introduction, 4 chapters and an annexe:
  • Chapter 1 - Strategic case 
  • Chapter 2 - Outline approach 
  • Chapter 3 - Public consultation on trade negotiations with the United States: Government response 
  • Chapter 4 – Scoping Assessment 
  • Annexe - Public consultation on trade negotiations with the United States: Summary of responses.
Chapter 1 estimates the benefits of a trade deal with the USA would be a long term increase in trade of approximately £15.3 billion which could deliver a £1.8 billion boost to UK workers’ wages, lower prices on key consumer goods imported from the USA and thereby raise living standards.  It considers how each of the nations and regions of the UK and particular sectors of the economy could benefit.  For instance,  it could enable professionals to move more easily and support recognition of professional qualifications in accountancy and law 

Chapter 2 outlines the structure of a free trade agreement with the USA covering:
  • trade in goods including customs facilitation, technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phytosanitary standards; 
  • good regulatory practice;
  • trade in services;
  • investment;
  • intellectual property;
  • competition;
  • industrial subsidies;
  • publicly owned enterprises;
  • government procurement;
  • sustainability'
  • anti-corruption;
  • trade and development;
  • trade remedies;
  • dispute settlement;
  • special provisions for small and medium enterprises;
  • women's empowerment;
  • exceptions to protect national interests; and
  • general provisions,
Each of those topics was the subject of a public consultation in 2018 to which the government received 158,720 responses.  Many of these were in identical form from campaign groups but some contained individual suggestions as well as 6,405 non-campaign responses from individuals, businesses, trade associations, non-government organizations and the public sector.  These together with the government's response are set out in the annexe to the document.  Chapter 3 sets out the government's policy on those topics taking into account the consultation and its previous responses.

Chapter 4 provides a preliminary assessment of the potential long-run impacts of a free trade agreement with the USA.  It opens with a snapshot of the UK's existing trade with the USA.  If there were substantial tariff liberalisation and a 25% reduction in non-tariff measures, GDP would increase by 0.07% or £1.6 billion, exports by 4.3% and imports by 4.1%.  If there were full tariff liberalisation and a 50% reduction in non-tariff measures, GDP would increase by 0.16% or £3.4 billion, exports by 7.7% and imports by 8.6%. The chapter models the impact of such tariff reductions and liberalization on the UK's nations and regions and sectors of the economy.   

No timetable appears to have been published for the start of negotiations with the USA. According to the press release Liz Truss kick-starts UK-US trade talks of 1 March 2020, they are expected to begin this month (that is to say, March 2020). Certainly, there is nothing to compare with the detailed negotiations with the Commission on the UK's new relationship with the EU. Nevertheless, I am monitoring such activity as takes place on my Trade Negotiations with the USA page.

Anyone wishing to discuss this article or any of the issues mentioned may call me on +44 (0)20 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact page.

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