The free trade agreement between Washington and London is long overdue

The United States and the United Kingdom managed on Tuesday to settle their dispute over steel and aluminum, but the Biden administration did not seem in a hurry to resume negotiations for a free agreement. – exchange desired by the British Prime Minister. US Trade Secretary Gina Raimondo and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai announced on Tuesday that the two countries will end punitive tariffs on these British products that were imposed in 2018 by former President Donald Trump.

“This critical agreement will not only help ensure the long-term viability of our steel and aluminum industries, protect American jobs, but it will also lift retaliatory tariffs on more than 500 millions of dollars in US exports to the UK, including spirits, various agricultural products and consumer goods,” they commented in a joint statement.

“This is great news and a welcome boost for our steel and aluminum industries,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted.

Concretely, this new agreement will make it possible to import “historic and sustainable volumes of British steel and aluminum products without the application of the tariffs of section 232”, detailed the American officials.

Improve relations between the two countries

Americans and British announced in January the launch of negotiations to put an end to this dispute inherited from the Trump era and which has polluted relations between the two countries for nearly four years. The United Kingdom was among many countries that were imposed additional tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum in June 2018, in the midst of a trade war.

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If the Biden administration had already reached agreements with the European Union in October, then with Japan in early February, a negotiated solution was long overdue for London.

This agreement will thus make it possible to improve relations between the two countries which had already settled, shortly after the arrival of Joe Biden at the White House, their other major dispute which concerned subsidies to aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Airbus.

British Minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan said she hoped that this agreement would allow us to “move forward” and to “focus on deepening our flourishing commercial relations with the United States”.

A commercial dialogue that will continue in April

However, it pales in comparison to the great free trade agreement that Boris Johnson wants. The signing of a bilateral treaty with the United States was one of the priorities of the British after Brexit, effective since January 1, 2021.

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But while the administration of Donald Trump (2017-2021) was willing to enter into a bilateral agreement with London and even conducted a series of negotiations, the Biden administration let the process die. In addition, the United States has made a potential agreement conditional on strict compliance with the peace agreement in Northern Ireland.

On Tuesday, Anne-Marie Trevelyan acknowledged that London had been trying to reach an agreement with Washington for “some time” and added that her government was not giving up. The British minister underlined that what was at stake was not just to eliminate tariffs, but also to respond to the need to “build a 21st century trading relationship between two great nations that have common values”.

For her part, Katherine Tai called for being “creative” in terms of trade tools, suggesting that an agreement was not on the agenda. Anne-Marie Trevelyan and Katherine Tai have announced that they will continue their business dialogue “in April, in Scotland” this time. “I don’t want to prejudge or predetermine […] from where these dialogues will lead us”, nevertheless tempered Katherine Tai.

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