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LONDON – The UK wants to convince the Biden administration about trade this week – but it has its work cut out for it.

New International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan is heading to Washington on her first overseas visit since taking office in September, while Deputy Trade Minister Penny Mordaunt is touring the western states.

This effort illustrates Britain’s eagerness to develop trade relations with its transatlantic partner and work for that elusive Brexit price: a free trade deal – even though US President Joe Biden has little interest in it. continue talks.

But the new dynamic is also likely to be overshadowed by a separate trade line: so-called Section 232 tariffs, former President Donald Trump, have slapped steel and aluminum on national security grounds. The Biden administration has struck a deal with the EU to ease tariffs, but so far the UK has been left behind.

Reports last week claimed Washington’s refusal to lift tariffs was an attempt to pressure London not to make rash Brexit moves, amid trade unrest in Northern Ireland and the resulting risk to peace in a country that has experienced decades of sectarian conflict.

There are fears in and around the UK government that these claims are correct, despite the Mordaunt brand’s suggestions, the two are linked an “false story. “

The White House has reportedly denied that the two issues are linked, but the US government did not respond to a request for comment.

Whether or not linked to Brexit, Trevelyan will push for the tariffs to be lifted when she meets with her U.S. counterpart Katherine Tai on Tuesday, and in a crucial meeting on the issue with U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo on Wednesday.

Back home, the pressure mounts to strike a steel deal. In a letter to Trevelyan seen by POLITICO, Labor Party shadow trade secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds urged his counterpart to strike a deal to protect manufacturing jobs before Christmas.

He noted that EU steelmakers are expected to have a “significant advantage” over those in Britain once the agreement with Brussels comes into force, adding: “This situation is urgent as customers in the states “The United will factor this into their plans for next year now. Steel is a fundamental sector to our national economy and jobs and livelihoods across the UK depend on it.”

Nerves of steel

One idea is for Trevelyan to point out to his counterparts that maintaining steel tariffs is in fact what is endangering the peace in Northern Ireland.

The UK is subject to tariffs on steel exports to the EU that Brussels imposed to prevent other countries from dumping on the continent after Trump put the charges in place. article 232, explained pro-Brexit business consultant Shanker Singham. Following the Brexit deal, this means the UK also pays tariffs on steel sent to Northern Ireland.

In practice, few people think that these tariffs are paid. But Singham argued the situation was exacerbating trade tensions between Britain and Northern Ireland that threatened to tear the Brexit deal apart, and said the UK needed to explain the image to the team. Biden.

“The EU and Ireland are clearly winning the political battle in Washington from miles away because they managed to convince the US administration of something that makes no sense,” he said.

Others are less tactful. Pro-Brexit Conservative backbench Andrew Bridgen accused Biden of wanting to “interfere in British affairs”, adding: “Due to his misguided actions the” special relationship “is at an all-time low.”

The dispute may not be all about Brexit, as manufacturing is a hot political issue in the United States and affects crucial electoral states. It is also true that the United States has not reached an agreement with Japan to reduce tariffs, despite the expectations it might have had.

But there is no doubt among observers that the UK should have easily followed suit once the EU made its deal. “Many expected that once the US and EU found a solution to the steel tariff dispute, the UK would be able to come to a roughly similar deal. “said Holger Hestermeyer, expert in commercial disputes at King’s College London.

More than steel

The question of steel will be crucial for the visit. But the UK government also hopes to shed light on other more positive areas of the transatlantic trade relationship.

For example, the Commerce Department released a report the day before Trevelyan left, claiming that US companies created some 1.48 million jobs in the UK in 2019, 60% of which were outside London and the rest. from the south-east more prosperous.

The department also highlighted the work the two countries can do in the World Trade Organization and to tackle global trade distortions, and noted that British farmers will be able to export lamb to the United States. from 2022 after Washington agreed to lift a long-standing ban.

“We share a thriving business partnership with the United States, which is boosting investment in all corners of the UK, helping to level our economy and create jobs and prosperity,” said Trevelyan, who goes from first by New York to meet with potential investors, said in a statement.

The other goal is for Britain to trade more directly with individual US states, some of which have larger economies than most countries in the world. During his two-week trip, Mordaunt will stop in California, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Oklahoma, among others, and will return for more in early 2022, with the goal of visiting the 50 au over the next few months.

Business groups are resigned to the fact that a full trade deal with Washington is not on the horizon. But there is still hope that work can be done, with the BritishAmerican Business trade association taking advantage of the visit to call for the creation of a new business and economic council to stimulate discussions.

This article is part of POLITICSPro Trade’s premium policing service. From transatlantic trade wars to the UK’s future trade relations with the EU and the rest of the world, Pro Trade gives you the information you need to plan your next move. E-mail [email protected] for a free trial.


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