Coronavirus-hit economies spark US, UK trade negotiations

About 100 negotiators will discuss goods and services

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The United States and the United Kingdom will begin negotiating a trade agreement Tuesday aimed at reinvigorating the countries' coronavirus-slammed economies.

A preliminary round of talks will run for two weeks, launched with a video call between U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer and U.K. International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, according to a statement from the British Embassy. There will be about 100 negotiators on each side discussing goods and services, digital trade, investment and supporting businesses. Additional rounds will take place approximately every six weeks, according to the statement, and will be carried out remotely until it is safe to travel.

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“More trade between the U.K. and U.S. is essential if we are to overcome the unprecedented economic challenge posed by coronavirus,” Truss said in the note.

“As we start trade talks with the U.S., we want to strike an ambitious deal that opens up new opportunities for our businesses, brings in more investment and creates better jobs for people across the whole of the U.K. We are seeking an agreement that works for the small businesses and entrepreneurs who are suffering most in this difficult period, and provides vital support to the long-term health of the economy.”

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The call, which will draw on expertise from the government and private sector, comes after the UK published its objectives for the negotiations in March, which outlined an initial assessment of the long-term bilateral trade between the two countries.

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“Securing a U.K.-U.S. free trade agreement can pave the way for stronger economies, and create the potential for better jobs, higher wages, more choice and lower prices for citizens in both our countries,” said U.K. Ambassador to the U.S. Dame Karen Pierce.

U.K. officials said they will drive a “hard bargain” to lower tariffs on exports, according to the BBC. The U.K. government forecasts eliminating tariffs and reducing other trade barriers with the U.S. could boost the economy by between 0.07 percent and 0.16 percent in the next five years. Critics, however, argue improved terms with the U.S. won’t compensate for the U.K.'s Brexit-induced economically distant relationship with the European Union.

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