U.S. says seeking to cut tariff, non-tariff barriers in UK trade deal

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A dock worker uses a crane to unload a ship in Associated British Ports facility in Goole

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States on Thursday laid out objectives for a trade deal with the United Kingdom that would ensure fair and balanced trade, cut tariff and non-tariff barriers for U.S. industrial and agricultural goods and reduce regulatory differences.

The negotiating objectives, required by Congress under the “fast-track trade negotiating authority law, will seek to boost trade between the countries by eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers,” the U.S. Trade Representative’s office said.

President Donald Trump has demanded better terms of trade, saying poor deals have cost the United States millions of jobs. Last year, the United States agreed to a reworked trade deal with Canada and Mexico. In October, USTR Robert Lighthizer told Congress it intended to open talks with the United Kingdom, the European Union and Japan.

The United States is seeking to entirely eliminate or reduce barriers for U.S. agricultural products and secure duty-free access for industrial goods. The plan would also streamline regulatory differences and customs requirements between the United States and Britain to boost trade.

The United States will aim to “reduce burdens associated with unnecessary differences in regulation,” USTR said in the document.

Now that the U.S. objectives have been published, the USTR may be ready to formally launch negotiations in as little as 30 days, though an exact timeline remains unclear as Britain is still scrambling to secure a plan for its exit from the European Union next month.

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Last year, USTR said it planned to launch talks with Britain after Britain’s exit from the EU on March 29. Just over a month until the deadline, Prime Minister Theresa May is still seeking changes to her Brexit deal in order to win the backing of parliament.

The United States is also seeking commitments from the United Kingdom to establish “state-of-the-art” rules to ensure cross-border data flows and not to impose customs duties on digital products.

USTR also said it would try to boost services opportunities by improving transparency and predictability in regulations.

U.S. goods and services trade with the United Kingdom totalled an estimated $231.9 billion (£174.8 billion) in 2017 and the U.S. goods and services trade surplus was $14.2 billion, according to USTR.

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