US, UK officials launch trade forum

US, UK officials launch trade forum
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Top U.S. and British trade officials met Monday in Washington to start building the foundation for an eventual trade agreement after the United Kingdom officially leaves the European Union. 

U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer met with Liam Fox, the United Kingdom’s international trade secretary, to launch the U.K.-U.S. Trade and Investment Working Group aimed at strengthening economic ties and providing certainty for businesses on both sides of the Atlantic while Britain completes a deal with the EU.

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“We expect this working group to be a key mechanism to deepen our already strong bilateral trade and investment relationship, and to lay the groundwork for our future trade relationship once the U.K. has left the EU,” Lighthizer said in a joint statement.

"This will be our forum to strengthen the bilateral trade and investment relationship and deepen the already extensive economic ties between the U.K. and U.S.,” Fox said.

President Trump has said he wants to create a trade deal with the U.K. "quickly" but an exit agreement must be completed first with the EU. 

During his two-day visit to Washington, Fox is talking trade with the Trump administration, Congress and business interests. 

"The U.S. is our single largest trading partner therefore we have a strong foundation on which to build," he said in the joint statement.

On Tuesday, Fox will release a report highlighting the benefits of U.S.-U.K. trade across all 435 congressional districts as part of the sell to lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

The report's findings show that more than 700,000 U.S. jobs were supported by exports to the U.K. in 2015.

Earlier in the day, Fox made the case for the importance of global trade. 

"We believe that an open, free and fair trading system is an unequivocal force for good," Fox said during remarks at the American Enterprise Institute.

"But for the first time in decades, the established order of fair, free and open global commerce, which has done so much to enrich and empower the world’s nations, is under threat," he said. 

Protectionist policies, which have sprouted across many of the world's largest economies since the financial crisis of 2008, are stunting global growth, Fox said. 

"This matters because the silting up of the global trading environment has implications beyond mere economics," Fox said. 

"For the economic prosperity that a liberal trading system generated is a potent force for social stability," he said. 

"That social stability underpins political stability, which in turn contributes to our collective security."

He urged Britain and the U.S. to lead by example and encourage and enforce a rules-based trading system to ensure the world's geopolitical stability. 

Beyond abolishing tariffs on goods, Fox argued that Britain, the U.S. and other trading partners must look most closely at ways to unlock the trade in services, which includes finishing the Trade in Services Agreement.

"Extending trading freedoms to our service sector means unlocking new, global markets for our tech companies, our finance industry and the wider knowledge-based economy," he said. 

"We should ensure that we give our industries the right conditions to retain that competitive edge."

Trade between the U.S. and U.K. is on the rise, amounting to about $200 billion a year.

The two nations have an estimated $1 trillion invested in each other's economies.