UK ambassador: Our nations must lead the global COVID-19 recovery
© Getty Images

The United Kingdom has announced our first independent tariff regime in nearly 50 years – the U.K.’s Global Tariff – which will come into force in January 2021. This represents a significant moment as the U.K. forges ahead as an independent, active free-trading nation. This will mean a significant percent of the U.K.’s total imports will be eligible for tariff-free access, opening up greater trading opportunities for partners and allies, including the United States.

This comes hot on the heels of the U.K. and the U.S. concluding the first round of trade negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) and, as we embrace the opportunity to pursue our international trade agenda, it is fitting that we are starting with one of our closest partners, the U.S.

Launching our tariff regime and beginning these trade negotiations both take place in extraordinary times, as the world grapples with a response to the COVID-19 crisis. The British Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss, points out that just as the shared calamity of World War II impelled nations to negotiate the settlement at Bretton Woods in 1945, so too should the COVID-19 outbreak lead us to deepen our commitment to shared rules to govern global trade and investment. In taking these steps, we show how old friends and allies – the U.K. and U.S. – can once again come together during times of difficulty and work side-by-side to mitigate the impact of this pandemic – a message we took to G20 trade ministers recently, as our two nations seek to galvanize the international community and find global solutions to revitalize our economies.

ADVERTISEMENT

The U.K.-U.S. trade negotiations are not only a demonstration of our confidence in post-coronavirus economic recovery. They represent a dynamic opportunity to bring our economies closer together. In 2019, total trade in goods and services between the U.K. and U.S. was $304.2 billion, an increase of 14.2 percent on the previous year. Every morning, 1.3 million people get up and go to work for British companies in America, and 1.7 million people in Britain do the same for American companies in the U.K. We are a top-five export market in 33 U.S. states – in fact, the U.K. is the No. 1 destination for oil and gas from Texas, transportation equipment from Virginia, and a key market for computer and electronics from California. States across the U.S. have jobs that are connected to an investment by a U.K. company. The FTA will allow us to go further, boosting trade, jobs and growth, lowering prices and increasing choices for consumers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Over the coming months, around 100 negotiators on each side will come together in nearly 30 negotiating groups every six weeks to cover all aspects of a comprehensive trade agreement. We already have agreed to a stand-alone Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) chapter, thereby opening up a concrete opportunity to bring welcome relief for small businesses who will be a vital part of the post-COVID-19 recovery.

In the current pandemic climate, with all of its attendant uncertainties, the U.K. and the U.S. have shown that we are forward-looking nations, leading the way in advancing trade and investment, and thereby – to use David Ricardo’s persuasive and elegant exposition – stimulating industry, rewarding investment and diffusing general benefit.

June will see the G7 Leaders’ Summit chaired by President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrat calls on White House to withdraw ambassador to Belarus nominee TikTok collected data from mobile devices to track Android users: report Peterson wins Minnesota House primary in crucial swing district MORE; the U.K. takes the G7 chair next. These are excellent opportunities to look outward to support global long-term economic recovery from this pandemic, and we will use them to the fullest.

Dame Karen Pierce is Her Majesty’s Ambassador to the United States of America. Prior to taking up the ambassadorship, Karen was the United Kingdom’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York. Before this role, she served as the Director General for Political Affairs and Chief Operating Officer of the Foreign and Commonwealth in London, from 2016. Pierce joined the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in 1981.