UK seeks big tariff reductions in U.S. trade deal

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is seeking far-reaching reductions in tariffs from a trade deal with the United States, trade minister Liz Truss said on Thursday, setting out the broad aims of a post-Brexit push to secure new free-trade agreements.

FILE PHOTO: A worker opens the door of a container at DP World London Gateway container port in Essex, southern England July 30, 2013. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

Britain plans to begin negotiating deals with the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand in the coming months, alongside talks on an agreement over its future relationship with the European Union.

“We will drive a hard bargain and, as with all negotiations, we will be prepared to walk away if that is in the national interest,” Truss said in a statement to parliament.

She said Britain wanted a deal with the United States to “secure comprehensive, far-reaching and mutually beneficial tariff reductions ... which will increase access to the US market for UK businesses, and lower prices and increase choice for UK consumers.”

The United States is Britain’s biggest trading partner after the EU, accounting for nearly 19% of all its exports in 2018 and 11% of imports. Both sides hope a deal can be reached as soon as this year but there are many hurdles.

The U.S. negotiating objectives published last year include seeking a removal of non-tariff barriers such as restrictions on chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-treated meat.

It is also pressing for full market access for U.S. pharmaceutical products and medical devices, which would require changes to Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) pricing restrictions and could increase the cost of drugs.

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Truss said Britain would not compromise on its high animal welfare and food standards and the price the NHS pays for drugs will not be on the table in trade talks.

Britain also said it planned to develop a new “most favored nation” tariff regime which will enter into force at the start of 2021 and will apply to goods from countries around the world where no other trade arrangements are in place.

It has launched a four-week consultation on the UK Global Tariff, which will replace the EU’s Common External Tariff. This could include simplifying tariffs and removing them completely on goods where Britain has no or limited domestic production, it said.

“It is vitally important that we now move away from the complex tariff schedule imposed on us by the European Union,” Truss said, adding that special arrangements would apply to goods entering Northern Ireland.

The government also said it would also begin reviewing 43 EU trade remedy measures which were considered important to British industries, including anti-dumping duties of up to 36.1% on imports of ceramic kitchen and tableware from China.

Editing by Stephen Addison