British Trade Minister Liz Truss will meet top U.S. officials in Washington in coming days to assess progress on reaching a free trade agreement between the two countries, a spokesman for the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office said on Saturday.
Truss is scheduled to meet U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer on Monday and Tuesday, his office said, confirming a Financial Times report.
After leaving the European Union in January, Britain is keen to stand alone and has started a series of trade negotiations with other countries. A deal with the United States is seen as a priority.
Ms Truss will urge her US counterpart not to slap them on our gin exports. She has packed a bottle of Hendrick’s gin to smooth the way when she meets Bob Lighthizer in Washington on Monday.
A source said: “It’ll give him a taste of what Americans could be missing out on if they don’t deal.”
Around 6,500 UK distillery jobs are in the balance after President Trump slapped a 25 per cent levy on malt whisky last October in a row with the EU.
Scotch whisky exports to the US have fallen by 25 per cent, costing £30million a month. Now the spirits industry fears extra costs on gin, vodka and beer.
But Ms Truss will demand the tit-for-tat tariffs are removed before talks begin on a US-UK free trade deal. She also wants the “ridiculous” ban on UK lamb lifted, along with tariffs on steel, cars, machinery, clothes, cheese and biscuits. She said: “I’ll be fighting hard for British interests.”
Liam Manton, of the UK Spirits Alliance, said: “I hope she’s ready to stand up for British distillers who are days away from being hit with further punitive tariffs.”
Statements From Liz Truss and US Officials
Ms Truss has previously said there was no timetable set for Britain’s trade talks with the United States, adding that British negotiators had made “very good progress” despite conducting talks via video conference due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“We’re not going to rush into a deal and there is no deadline. We will be tough in pressing our interests,” Ms Truss told a parliamentary committee in June.
The British embassy in Washington did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday.
The FT reported late in July that the British government had abandoned hopes of clinching a free trade deal with the United States ahead of the American presidential election on Nov 3, with officials blaming the pandemic for slow progress.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said during a visit to London last month that the United States and Britain still have more work to do on a free trade deal.
“A third round (of negotiations) scheduled for later this month, a primary focus for the United States is to see that we can make progress on this and bring this to a closure just as quickly as possible,” Mr Pompeo said.