U.S. sees British trade deal 'reasonably soon'

© Reuters. U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer testifies before a Senate Finance Committee hearing in Washington, U.S.

LONDON (Reuters) – U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Tuesday he was “very pleased” with progress in negotiations with Britain over a trade agreement and predicted a deal “reasonably soon”.

The United States and Britain launched negotiations on a free-trade agreement in May, vowing to work quickly to seal a deal as Britain completes its exit from the European Union.

Lighthizer, speaking by video link from Washington to a British government conference on transatlantic co-operation, said talks were taking place continuously despite being split into rounds, while hinting at some differences over future trade ties.

“These things take time … but we are making great headway and we have got 30-some groups negotiating and negotiating bitterly right now,” Lighthizer told the Atlantic Future Forum.

“I am optimistic across the board and I think that it is going to happen reasonably soon,” he said, referring to a deal.

British trade minister Liz Truss, speaking by remote link to the same conference, said western port cities like Liverpool would benefit from a U.S. trade deal as Britain widens its gaze beyond a 45-year-old bias in favour of trade ties with the EU.

The tone of the comments by both politicians contrasted with a separate stand-off over Britain’s future trade ties with the EU following its exit from the bloc in January.

The EU and Britain urged each other on Tuesday to compromise to avoid a disruptive Brexit finale.

Lighthizer, who has named the UK trade talks one of his top priorities for 2020, published objectives more than a year ago that sought full access for U.S. agricultural products and reduced tariffs for U.S. manufactured goods.

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The two sides are seen at odds, however, over tariffs including steel and aluminium duties imposed by Washington in 2018.

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