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UK and US set to embark on 'ambitious' free trade deal negotiations
4 May 2020, 22:02
Britain and the United States are to begin negotiations on an "ambitious" post-Brexit free trade agreement.
International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and the US trade representative Robert Lighthizer will open the talks with a video conference call on Tuesday.
The first round of negotiations will then continue for around two weeks, with around 100 negotiators on each side taking part.
Further rounds will take place approximately every six weeks with talks being conducted remotely until it is safe to travel again.
At official level the talks will be led by Oliver Griffiths at the Department for International Trade for the UK and Daniel Mullaney, the assistant US trade representative for Europe and the Middle East.
Boris Johnson has long argued that a free trade deal with the US is one of the great prizes to be gained from leaving the EU, providing a major boost to the economy.
However critics have warned that striking a deal will require Britain to accept looser US food and environmental standards as well as opening up the NHS to American firms, something the Government denies.
Ahead of the first session Ms Truss said a deal would help both countries' economies to "bounce back" after the coronavirus crisis.
"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," she said.
"The Prime Minister has been clear that we champion free trade and this deal will make it even easier to do business with our friends across the pond.
"As we sit down at the negotiating table today be assured that we will drive a hard bargain to secure a deal that benefits individuals and businesses in every region and nation of the UK."
It comes after the EU's Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said last week that he is 'disappointed' with Brexit talks progress
He said that a decision is needed by the end of June on whether to extend the Brexit transition period beyond the end of this year.
He also accused the British delegation of not engaging with the process on the terms previously set out in the withdrawal agreement.
The UK is refusing to commit "seriously" on numerous fundamental points, the EU's chief negotiator said.
Michel Barnier warned the "clock was ticking" and said Britain cannot both slow down trade talks on key areas while refusing to agree to extend the transition period.
His remarks on Friday afternoon came at the end of the second round of talks, which took place by video-conferencing technology because of the coronavirus pandemic.