Negotiations got underway on Tuesday, with Liz Truss, International Trade Secretary, holding a video conference with Robert Lighthizer, who as United States Trade Representative, to get the ball rolling. A free trade agreement between the two nations is regarded as a crucial aspect of Prime Minister Boris Johnson‘s strategy after the UK’s departure from the EU.
Mike Cherry, FSB chairman, said he was hoping small businesses would be placed at the centre of any future deal, given the crucial importance of US markets.
He said: “For small businesses, the US is the number one single market of choice for importers and exporters for the next three years, which is why these negotiations are so critical.
“Exporting will be crucial for many small businesses to support their recovery from the pandemic and that is why it’s crucial to see a reduction in tariff and non-tariff barriers.”
Boris Johnson and Donald Trump have been urged to strike a deal which would boost the UK’s recovery
Liz Truss is International Trade Secretary
The coronavirus pandemic is costing UK businesses an estimated £2.5 billion a day, with uncertainty about what the future holds, Mr Cherry acknowledged.
However, he added: “With our economy likely to be suppressed for some time, we are going to need small businesses that trade to lead the way.
“The prospects of a trade-led recovery would be lifted by progress in trade negotiations with the EU as our nearest trading bloc, the US as the largest global economy, as well as other nations already bouncing back after COVID-19 such as China.”
Liz Truss speaks to Robert Lighthizer via video link
However, he singled out the US as key, saying: “Our own findings suggest that the US is the most important individual country market for small firms hoping to export over the next three years, with 46 percent selecting the country.
“Small businesses are already the backbone of the UK’s domestic economy.
“And especially in these difficult times, we now need to see their share of global trade start to catch up.
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Liz Truss retweeted a message by US Ambassador to the UK Woody Johnson
A sign thanking NHS workers
“We can do this by putting SMEs front and centre of all new trade agreements.
“Securing a pro-small business free trade agreement, which includes a comprehensive and dedicated small business chapter, will be essential to addressing the needs and distinct challenges that small firms face when engaged in transatlantic trade.”
Mr Lighthizer acknowledged the impact of COVID-19, and the importance of the ongoing discussions, on Tuesday, saying: “While this is at first a health crisis, each of us is also facing an economic crisis perhaps like never before.
UK coronavirus figures
“But we need to prepare now for the day when the health crisis recedes and lay the foundations for stronger, more resilient economies.
“This crisis has demonstrated how important it is to have strong and diverse supply chains with trusted trade partners to support our economies.
“It has shown that we need to have a healthy manufacturing base and workers and farmers that are thriving.
“It has shown that depending purely on cheap imports for strategic products can make us vulnerable in times of crisis.
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“Moreover, it has confirmed that we need to think carefully about our trade policies and how we work with our trading partners.”
Ms Truss said: “The US is our largest trading partner and increasing transatlantic trade can help our economies bounce back from the economic challenge posed by coronavirus.
“We want to strike an ambitious deal that opens up new opportunities for our businesses, brings in more investment and creates better jobs for people across the whole of the country.
“As the Prime Minister has said, the UK is a champion of free trade and this deal will make it even easier to do business with our friends across the pond.”
Published at Thu, 07 May 2020 18:45:00 +0000