Saturday, 4 March 2017

InFacts: PM guilty of doublespeak on free trade

InFacts: PM guilty of doublespeak on free trade

by David Hannay

"And this does not take account of missing out on future free trade agreements the EU of 27 may conclude, some of them quite soon – with Japan, with India, with the Mercosur countries in Latin America. Some of these countries may give a higher priority to negotiating access to the relatively much smaller market of the UK, but some will almost certainly give us a lower priority, particularly if our attitude towards the movement of people becomes even more restrictive. Will the trading behemoth, China, give us a high priority? And, if so, at what price?

At this point Brexiters will point proudly to the US, misleadingly described as our largest market – misleadingly because the EU, which is a single market not 27 separate ones, is more than three times as large for us. They will also point to Donald Trump’s warm words about negotiating a bilateral agreement with the UK. That may indeed materialise in due course and it could lead to a welcome freeing up of trade.

But it would be wise not to count those particular chickens, likely to be washed in chlorine, just yet. After all the Trump administration wears protectionism as a badge of honour and believes that bilateral trade deficits are there to be eliminated – and the UK has a substantial surplus in its trade with the US. So it is not at all clear that a UK/ US trade deal negotiated by this administration will bring major benefits."

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