US, UK launch video trade talks

The US and Britain have launched a first round of negotiations for a free trade agreement.

Both nations' trade representatives have pledged to work quickly online to reach a deal that will "significantly boost trade and investment".

The talks, to be conducted virtually, will involve more than 300 US and UK staff and officials in nearly 30 negotiating groups, US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and UK trade minister Liz Truss said in a joint statement.

"We will undertake negotiations at an accelerated pace and have committed the resources necessary to progress at a fast pace," they said in Tuesday's statement.

"A Free Trade Agreement would contribute to the long-term health of our economies, which is vitally important as we recover from the challenges posed by COVID-19."

It will be Washington's first major new trade negotiation in 2020. London has also been working out trade terms with the EU following its exit from the bloc in January.

Both countries are trying to shore up domestic supply chains as they grapple with the effects of the coronavirus crisis.

Lighthizer has named the UK trade talks one of the Trump administration's top priorities for 2020.

He published objectives more than a year ago that sought full access for US agricultural products and reduced tariffs for US manufactured goods.

Republican US Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa said he hopes a trade deal with the UK lays the groundwork for an improved deal with the EU.

"All I'm hoping to do is if we get a good deal with the UK on agriculture, it's going to embarrass Europe," Grassley told reporters on a conference call.

The Trump administration is looking to shift supply chains back to the US and away from China, where the novel coronavirus originated, and is pushing a "Buy American" campaign for medical and other supplies.

Agriculture is expected to be among the thorniest issues in the talks, given the strong British opposition to US genetically modified crops and antibacterial treatments for poultry.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to drive a "hard bargain" and Truss has said that Britain would not diminish its food safety standards.

Austrlaian Associated PressBack to Breaking News

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