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Quick post-Brexit US trade pact unlikely

by Alan Wheatley | 04.03.2016

Brexit advocates are wrong to think the United States would rush to strike a free trade deal with the UK if it votes to quit the EU, a senior US administration official said on Friday.

Boris Johnson was among those saying the UK would enjoy the freedom post-Brexit to seal free trade agreements with the United States and China among others.

Well, perhaps. But he’d have to be patient. Fred Hochberg, president of the US Export-Import Bank, a government export credit agency, told a meeting at Chatham House in London there was no appetite in Congress to negotiate bilateral trade deals.

Concluding agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea had taken Washington more than five years from start to finish. Getting Congress to ratify the two-way pacts had been so gruelling, the Obama administration had decided to pour its energy into multi-country trade deals instead, Hochberg said.

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Hence the importance for Washington of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, signed last month by 12 Pacific Rim countries including the US, and of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership that the United States is negotiating with the 28-member EU. “If we’re going to put all that political effort in, it’s not going to be a bilateral,” Hochberg said of the US approach to trade negotiations.

Hochberg was speaking in a personal capacity, but his views echo those of US Trade Representative Michael Froman. The US is Britain’s biggest trading partner after the EU, but Froman said in December that Washington would not be keen on pursuing a separate free trade deal with Britain if it left the EU. In that case, the UK would face the same tariffs and trade barriers as other countries outside the US free trade network.

Editing by Yojana Sharma

Tags: , Categories: Articles, Brexit