The U.K. isn’t likely to sign a free trade deal with the U.S. anytime soon, and even when they do its benefits will be minimal, a former top U.S. Treasury official said.
Leading Brexiteers like International Trade Secretary Liam Fox say quitting the European Union frees up the U.K. to do trade deals around the world and are counting on a deal with the U.S. to make Brexit a success. Britain also wants to forge trade deals with Australia and New Zealand, and is working to adopt about 40 free trade agreements before the U.K. leaves the EU.
But Fox may be left waiting for some time as any U.K. deal will take a backseat to the U.S. renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, said Tim Adams, chief executive officer of the Institute of International Finance and a former U.S. Treasury undersecretary for international affairs under President George W. Bush.
“The two economies are pretty much alike. There aren’t many trade barriers now and they run a fairly balanced trade. So is there a benefit? Probably. Is it going to be huge for either side? I’m skeptical,” he said in an interview at the IIF’s conference taking place in Buenos Aires Monday.
The U.S.’s policies on bleaching chicken and genetically modified crops would also clash with Michael Gove’s promise of a green Brexit, he said. The U.K. Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, who’s also a leading Brexiteer, has put animal welfare at the top of his agenda. Gove has already said Britain won’t allow in imports of American chlorine-washed chicken as part of the post-Brexit trade deal it’s seeking with the U.S.
“All those small, beautifully preserved farms and pasture lands and various production facilities, are they going to open it up to the U.S.?” asked Adams. “That’s what the U.S. is side is going to want and it’s hard for me to see any bilateral agreement the U.S. would sign where agriculture doesn’t play an important role.