Joe Biden's pick for trade envoy wants to ‘review’ negotiations with UK

President elect Joe Biden 

President elect Joe Biden - Credit: AFP via Getty Images

Joe Biden’s nomination as trade representative has said she wants to “review” the progress and objectives of negotiations on a UK-US deal.

In a confirmation hearing before the Senate finance committee, Katherine Tai said she would examine the situation in the light of the UK’s Brexit deal and against the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic.

International trade secretary Liz Truss and Donald Trump’s trade envoy Robert Lighthizer formally launched negotiations in May 2020.

Tai told the hearing the initial notifications about the intention to open trade talks were sent to Congress in October 2018.

“That’s almost two-and-a-half years ago,” she said.

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“If confirmed (as trade representative), it will be important to me to review the progress in the conversations so far, to review the objectives in light of all the changes that have taken place in the last two-and-a-half years.”

In that time “the UK has negotiated two agreements with the EU in the meantime, one to leave the EU, one on its future relationship with the EU” and the world had been hit by coronavirus.

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“I would want to have the opportunity, if confirmed, to review the discussions and the negotiations that have taken place so far in the light of all of these developments in the most recent years and months.”

Trump was a vocal supporter of a trade deal with the UK but the new administration is thought to place less of a priority on the issue.

After a call in January following Biden’s inauguration, No 10 said Boris Johnson and the US president “discussed the benefits of a potential free trade deal between our two countries, and the prime minister reiterated his intention to resolve existing trade issues as soon as possible”.

But there was no mention of trade matters in the White House readout of the same call.

Officials in Whitehall have noted Tai’s comments and are awaiting the outcome of her confirmation process.

The government believes it can work with the Biden administration to advance mutual priorities and shape the global trade agenda, including through reform of the World Trade Organisation.

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