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Kay Burley clashes with John Bolton over Donald Trump in 2018
Prime Minister Boris Johnson put a trade agreement with the US at the heart of his plans to revive post-Brexit Britain. However, the country’s hopes of securing a deal have recently been dashed as President-elect Joe Biden, who will take office January 20, has reiterated Washington will not sign anything with anyone until the US has sorted out its competitiveness. The UK had been closing in on a trade deal with Donald Trump’s administration but the former Vice President said in a New York Times interview that his priorities will be to improve investment in US manufacturing and the protection of American workers.
He said: “I’m not going to enter any new trade agreement with anybody until we have made major investments here at home and in our workers and in education.”
While Mr Biden‘s position is not necessarily a surprise, there could be another way for London and Washington to be tied on trade.
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Alan Winters, director of the Trade Policy Observatory at the University of Sussex, claimed Britain and the US can still enter a trade partnership in the near future.
Mr Winters argued the two countries could both join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
The CPTPP is a high-quality free trade agreement which binds together Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Singapore, Vietnam, Mexico, Malaysia, Peru, Chile and Brunei.
Boris Johnson issued lifeline in US-UK trade talks amid tension with Joe Biden
Prime Minister Boris Johnson
It covers nearly 14 percent of the global economy and it was the centrepiece of President Barack Obama’s strategic pivot to Asia.
Before President Trump withdrew the US in 2017 – on his third day in office – the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) was set to become the world’s largest free trade deal, covering 40 percent of the global economy.
Mr Trump suggested in early 2018 that he would be willing to reenter TPP discussions under certain conditions, but he quickly backtracked.
Professor Winters said: “The CPTPP is the best chance we have got to find an agreement with the US quickly.
“It obviously depends on the Americans deciding whether they want to go back into the CPTPP but Biden seems well disposed to.
“The question is ‘is he willing to pick it up as it were with almost no changes?’
Professor Alan Winters
President-elect Joe Biden
“Because if he doesn’t, the other members might be rather resistant.”
Prof Winters added: “But it is definitely the only chance we have got.
“If Biden accepts it as it is, sure as anything we will be on the phone a second after saying ‘us, too’.”
Conservative MP John Redwood echoed Prof Winters’ claims, saying: “Yes, the CPTPP might be the only way to trade with the Americans, indeed.
“It depends how keen President-elect Biden is, but he may come round to the idea as it does make an awful lot of sense.”
Commenting on why he thinks the CPTPP is the only chance, Prof Winters said: “Americans want things out of the US-UK deal that are pretty unpalatable in Britain, such as chlorinated chicken and access to a pharmaceutical market at high prices.
“Basically all things that the UK Government has already said it cannot give.”
Moreover, many Democrats continue to take offence at Mr Johnson’s often inflammatory rhetoric, including a description of Barack Obama as America’s “part-Kenyan president” in 2016, raising the matter in discussions with a range of British officials.
On the other hand, Mr Biden was Vice President in an administration that put itself squarely behind David Cameron’s Remain campaign, notably clashing with Mr Johnson in the process.
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Conservative MP John Redwood
US President Donald Trump
Mr Biden said in Dublin the day after the 2016 Brexit referendum: “We’d have preferred a different outcome.”
He then lashed out at the “reactionary politicians and demagogues peddling xenophobia, nationalism and isolationism” in Europe and the US.
He also likened Mr Johnson to Mr Trump.
Launching a brutal swipe at the Prime Minister, Mr Biden told a fundraiser in San Francisco as Britain’s general election results rolled in last December: “You’re going to see people saying: ‘My God, Boris Johnson, who is kind of a physical and emotional clone of the President, is able to win’.”
This summer, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss announced Britain would press ahead with a bid to join the CPTPP.
Ms Truss said the trading bloc was the “next logical step” for post-Brexit Britain.
In another interview with Express.co.uk, Australian Liberal Party Senator Eric Abetz said about the prospect of Britain joining: “I couldn’t see a reason why Britain shouldn’t, couldn’t or wouldn’t be part of it.
“Let’s hope they get excited by that prospect.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss
Australian Senator Eric Abetz
“It would be a real enhancement for the UK and for all the other members of the partnership.”
When asked whether Britain’s entry might make it easier for a future US administration to come back to the partnership, Mr Abetz said: “That is a possibility.
“They seem to have issues with major trade agreements, they want to maintain their flexibility and independence.
“But the more we can engage the UK in world affairs, as a separate entity, the better it will be for everyone.”
Following an agreement signed between the UK and Mexico last month, Liz Truss said it was the “seventh trade deal we’ve secured with a member of the CPTPP”.
She added: “So, it’s another really important stepping stone toward the UK joining the CPTPP, and I look forward to making our application to do just that early next year”.