MPs criticize the ‘top-down’ approach to UK-US trade talks

Britain’s trade talks with the United States have only progressed with “minimal” input from workers, small businesses and think tanks, according to MPs accused by UK Commerce Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan of protecting her department from outside investigations.

Conservative and Labor MPs from the Trade Selection Committee also said that the scrutiny of an agreement with Australia and New Zealand risks being “quick” in Parliament before the Commonwealth countries can assess its impact on imports and exports from there. .

The row comes after two days of talks between Trevelyan and US Trade Envoy Catherine Tae in Aberdeen this week.

According to officials close to the talks, the volume of discussions was understood to have been slightly higher than “investigative conversations”.

Officials from both sides discussed the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war on the world trade system before discussing the “policy” of managing a possible agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States.

The US is the single largest export destination in the UK and the total UK-US trade value in 2020 was over 20 220bn. A UK-US free trade agreement could boost trade between the two countries by more than bn 15bn “in the long run”, according to official estimates.

Negotiations have been going on for more than 18 months against the backdrop of growing suspicions that the US Congress may agree to an agreement.

Speaking Wednesday after a trade conference, Adam Posen, a former Bank of England policymaker and head of the Washington-based Peterson Institute, said the agreement between the United Kingdom and the United States was less likely to be reached during the Good Friday deal, which was safe. Peace in Northern Ireland remains in jeopardy.

“The US Congress does not want to approve any kind of trade agreement with anyone,” Posen told Bloomberg. “Then you throw in Northern Ireland. It’s not going to happen, 100%.

MPs are concerned that any proposal would undermine workers’ rights, despite promises from both sides.

The U.S. president has promised to protect workers’ rights as part of any trade agreement, and his officials have included an equal number of trade and union representatives on the trade advisory board.

Joe Biden is known for questioning trade deals that only reduce tariffs and facilitate the export of goods and services, arguing that it has failed to benefit living standards in most countries, including the United States’ industrialized regions.

Trevelian said the TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, was involved in the talks in Aberdeen and he hoped the unions would play a role in advising the government on future trade agreements.

But he was unable to say whether all groups would be represented by unions, small businesses and independent experts, adding that he wanted to be flexible and “footy” in how he came to trade talks.

Labor MPs on the trade committee have accused the commerce secretary of pursuing a “top-down” approach that increases the risk of signing contracts that are detrimental to domestic industry, excluding various voices.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle, a Labor MP from Brighton Kemptown, accused Trevelyan of refusing to follow the US and EU, which included an equal number of businesses and unions on the advisory committee, after revealing that the UK included only six unions. Of 21.

Chevan Haviland, head of the British Chamber of Commerce, has not yet been appointed to an advisory group, denying the lobby group a high-level representation of most small and medium-sized businesses.

“We are getting great input from all these sectoral groups,” said Trevelian, who hopes for a US trade deal to boost the wages of British workers. Everything is in a sleek shape and we want to incorporate a mix of skills. There are six where we have invited the unions and we keep looking at the whole section for advice to make sure we have the best people on our team to advise them. “

Rosa Crawford, TUC’s head of trade policy, said: “The government has been waiting almost 18 months for the TUC Trade Advisory Group to agree on all our nominations.

“If the government wants a ‘worker-centric’ approach to trade agreements, trade union representation should not be dragged down. It should ensure that all unions, including an industrial base, are represented in the sectors covered by the groups. “

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