Speaking at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) conference, Mr Ross said his trip to the UK allowed him to “address with the UK some concerns we have that they may be tempted to include (provisions) in their agreement with the European Commission (EC) that could be problems for a subsequent FTA (Free Trade Agreement) with the US".
While he struck a friendly tone, he also issued a veiled warning that talks with Washington could go off the rails if Theresa May, the Prime Minister, aligned too closely with Brussels in designing the post-Brexit settlement.
?It is a reminder that Britain risks having to pick sides between two trade superpowers with starkly different demands.
Mr Ross accused Brussels of imposing higher tariffs than the US across the “vast majority” of traded goods – including a 10 per cent charge on cars, compared to America’s 2.5 per cent – and trying to enforce its regulatory codes on third countries rather than allowing an open global system.
“While the EU talks a lot of free-trade rhetoric, it is really quite protectionist,” he said.
He vowed to avoid “tit-for-tat” bargaining when it came to negotiating a trade deal with Britain but left no doubt that there would be trouble if the UK signed up to core elements of EU ideology deemed most aggravating in Washington, not least the EU curbs on chlorinated chickens and – far more important – genetically modified foods.
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The UK is busy employing thousands of bureaucrats to beef up the nation’s ability to handle its own enforcement of regulations and negotiations for trade, defence, fisheries, agriculture, finance, services etc. Considering the ambitions of the administration for new trade deals following the UK’s exit from the EU they are going to have a busy time. It has been our view at this service for over a year that negotiating trade deals does not need to take a decade as suggested by naysayers. However, a shortened timeline does require an energetic attitude on both sides of the table to reach agreement.
The UK has an opportunity to become something of a broker between two very large trading blocks, but plotting that course is going to require a strong vision from government and a highly capable bureaucracy. Right now, the May government remains weak as it tries to overcome infighting. That represents a potential obstacle to the most ambitious aims of the negotiations.
There is a counter-genetically modified foods trend in the USA which continues to gain momentum. The attitude to GM foods is even more vociferously opposed in Europe than the USA. If the UK opens up as a market for GM foods, in the interests of expediency and in return for a similar concession from the USA, rather than impose tariffs, a simple solution would be to require labelling. That would allow consumers to make their own choice and would force sellers to tailor their products to the demands of the market.
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