Britain sets sights on early trade talks with Biden administration


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© Reuters. U.S. President-elect Joe Biden speaks after meeting with governors in Wilmington, Delaware

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By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Britain does not expect to reach a comprehensive trade agreement with the United States before President Donald Trump leaves office, and is setting its sights on early talks with the incoming Democratic administration, a UK official said Friday.

“We will continue to prepare the ground so that we can move quickly with the Biden administration (and) take account of their priorities,” said the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly.

Both Britain and the United States say they have made significant progress in five rounds of talks aimed at securing a trade deal after the country left the European Union in January and began negotiating its own bilateral deals.

But the July 1 expiration of the current Trade Promotion Authority – under which U.S. lawmakers give the executive branch ‘fast track’ authority to negotiate trade agreements – means any trade deal must be reached quickly, said the official.

The schedule will be “incredibly tight,” said the official, noting that it traditionally took some time to renew TPA.

Democratic President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Jan. 20, but it could take weeks or longer for his nominees for key trade jobs to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate, especially if it remains under Republican control.

Congress could agree to temporarily extend TPA to allow the two sides to complete a trade deal, the official said,

Earlier this month, Britain’s trade ministry said almost all chapters of the trade deal were at an advanced stage, and a significant portion of the legal text had been agreed.

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The United States is Britain’s largest single-country trading partner.

Biden has made clear he will seek to rebuild ties with Europe after tensions flared throughout the Trump administration. However key issues, such as Britain’s rejection of U.S. chlorinated chicken must still be resolved.

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