| 15 April 2024, Monday |

UK Reportedly Mulls Joining US-Mexico-Canada Trade Deal as FTA With America Stalls

Boris Johnson acknowledged on Tuesday that a much-hoped for post-Brexit bilateral free trade deal with the US was low on President Joe Biden’s list of priorities, telling reporters: “Joe has a lot of fish to fry.” The comment was made as the UK Prime Minister was heading into his White House meeting with Biden after the UN General Assembly.

The UK is considering joining the free trade agreement between the US, Mexico and Canada, reported Sky News.

Ministers are believed to be mulling the option, along with a possible series of smaller, sectoral deals with America on separate issues, as an alternative to a US-UK free-trade agreement (FTA), hopes for which have waned, according to government sources cited by the outlet.

Unlike his predecessor, former President Donald Trump, Joe Biden does not seem eager to pursue stand-alone trade deals, so sources are hopeful that expanding already existing agreements, like the one between the US, Mexico and Canada, known as USMCA, might prove more successful.

The USMCA agreement in July last year replaced the renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement, after then-POTUS Trump offered a deal that he claimed was “rebalanced” and “works much better for North America”.

Sources acknowledged, however, that there had not previously been any talk of extending the three-nation arrangement beyond the continent.

“There are different ways to do this. The question is whether the US administration is ready. The ball in their court and it takes two to tango,” a source was cited as saying.

On Tuesday, ahead of his Oval Office sit-down with Boris Johnson after a meeting of the UN General Assembly, Joe Biden appeared to downplay hopes for a swift FTA with Britain.

“We’re going to talk a little bit about trade today and we’re going to have to work that through,” he told reporters.

Biden reiterated earlier warnings that London’s post-Brexit arrangements with Brussels must not result in a “closed border” on the island of Ireland.

“On the (Northern Ireland) protocols I feel very strongly on those. We spent an enormous amount of time and effort, the United States, it was a major bipartisan effort made… And I would not at all like to see, nor I might add would many of my Republican colleagues like to see, a change in the Irish accords, the end result having a closed border in Ireland,” said the US President.

To these remarks, the UK Prime Minister responded by saying: “On that point, Joe, we are completely at one. Nobody wants to see anything that interrupts or unbalances the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.”

‘A Great FTA’

Boris Johnson conceded that a bilateral agreement with Washington – one of his much-touted campaign pledges for Brexit – may not be hammered out before the next general election in 2024.

Johnson, who is on a visit to New York and Washington DC this week, acknowledged this to reporters, saying: We’re going to keep going for free-trade deals as fast as we can.”

Johnson added:

“On the FTA [free trade agreement], the reality is that Joe has a lot of fish to fry… He’s got a huge infrastructure package, he’s got a build back better package. We want to do it, but what we want is a good FTA, a great FTA.”
Boris Johnson underscored that Britain was doing “major exports with free-trade deals”, including in the United States and said that he had “reason to be optimistic”.

However, he added:

“And I have quite a lot of experience of American negotiations, and they are pretty ruthless, the American negotiators. And I would much rather get a deal that really works for the UK than get a quick deal.”

Post-Brexit Trade Deals

In 2017 Boris Johnson had vowed that the UK was “first in line” for an FTA with the US.

Britain launched trade talks with the US immediately after it officially withdrew from the European bloc in January 2020, however, negotiations hit a number of challenges, such as differences about chlorinated chicken, hormone-pumped beef and access to the National Health Service (NHS).

Meanwhile, the UK government has been rolling over UK agreements it previously enjoyed with Mexico and Canada as part of the EU. Furthermore, this year ministers announced planned talks to upgrade the trade deals with these two countries to ensure they are “better tailored to the UK economy”.

The UK also announced in June 2021 that it was launching negotiations to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) “to open new opportunities to this £9 trillion trade area”.

CPTPP grew out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and was signed in March 2018. It came into force at the end of December 2018. Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam are signatories to the deal.

  • Sputnik