Why the UK will get a lousy trade deal with the US


The Office of the United States Trade Representative publishes an annual report on foreign trade barriers. In the 2017 report it lists a whole series of complaints against the European Union, many of them long-standing, on barriers to US exports. If we pick just four of them we can see a picture emerging.

Firstly, the report makes this complaint: “The EU requires that for a product to be labeled ‘whiskey’ (or ‘whisky’), it must be aged a minimum of three years. … Recent advances in barrel technology enable U.S. micro-distillers to reduce the aging time for whiskey.” I am no expert in whisky (or “whiskey”) but I do know who Trump would back in a trade dispute over this. Why stock your hotels with three-year old whisky when you can stock it with much cheaper three-week old “whiskey”?

Another beef – pun intended – is with the EU prohibition on growth promotants in the meat industry, in particular hormones. The loss to the U.S. is estimated at $116.8 million, enough to cause a retaliatory 100% tariff slapped on certain EU imports. Now who is Trump going to back over this?

Thirdly, we come to genetically modified crops, GM as it is known here, “GE” for genetically engineered crops in the States. This is a huge battle, raging for as long as the “whiskey”-whisky issue, and guess how much “GE” Trump must have eaten since its introduction in the USA? I don’t know, but it’s clear who he will side with.

Fourthly, there is the issue of EDCs as they are known here – endocrine disruptor chemicals – or just “ED”s as they are known as in the States. These are present in a huge range of plastics and furnishings such that a recent study has suggested they are a significant cause of obesity due to their presence in ingested household dust. In this instance it is their presence in pesticides that is concerning the USA. The report comments:

While the United States shares public health concerns with respect to EDs, the United States is concerned that the EU appears to be contemplating approaches to regulating these compounds that are not based on scientific principles and evidence, thereby restricting trade without improving public health.

Similar sentiments are expressed over many such products that the EU have raised barriers to, that the EU’s concerns are not based on scientific principles. Whose scientific principles, one wonders? And which set of scientific principles, European or American, will Trump be inclined to favour or “favor”?

Now, picture the UK going cap in hand for a “great” trade deal with the USA. Yes, it looks like we will be drinking “whiskey” made yesterday, eating beef that gives you man-boobs, ingesting lots more EDCs, eating Frankenstein foods, and that’s just for starters. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

What I don’t know

I don’t know whether the complaint made by the European Union that local procurement across the USA is closed to EU goods and services will be raised by the UK trade negotiating team. It hardly seems like a good time to mention it though.

State Nanny


In a closely parallel universe Prime Minister’s Questions went like this the other day:

Corbyne: We need a trade policy that values human rights and human dignity.

Maye: What my party means by human rights is the protection for those with the get-up-and-go to create the new industries and employment that this country needs. What the right honourable member for Islington means when he talks about human rights is the nanny state, which stifles all innovation.

Corbyne: Nanny state? That’s good coming from a Prime Minister who looks more and more like the State Nanny every day. (Roars of laughter. “Order! Order!”) This is a PM who is going to decide the fate of this country all by herself, an outrageous abuse of the Royal Prerogative. I don’t recall a popular vote in June to “restore sovereignty” to Teresa May, but to the UK Parliament! (Roars of approval and boos of dissent.)

Maye: The sovereign will of the people is what matters here. Those in Parliament who would betray our democratic values by subverting the Brexit process have no right to talk about sovereignty.

Corbyne: It is the State Nanny who thinks she is sovereign! (Cheers and boos.) She wants to treat Parliament like a nursery! (Uproar. ‘Order! Order!’) Apparently we shouldn’t worry our pretty little heads about the details of Brexit, so she won’t provide what she scornfully calls a “running commentary”. I say she won’t provide it because the State Nanny and her three Brexiteer stooges haven’t got a clue!

Maye: Utter nonsense. In negotiations with the EU we must keep our cards close to our chest. History is littered with negotiations that failed when the interlocutors predicted the outcome in detail and in advance.

Corbyne: But if the State Nanny cannot even negotiate the details of Brexit with her own Parliament, where does sovereignty lie? If the two houses are treated as a kindergarten what happens to democracy? The PM clearly has no intention of consulting with Parliament, just as she clearly has no intention of consulting with the CBI, the City, or world-class economists all of whom warn that this headlong rush to a drawbridge Britain will hugely damage our economy. Drawbridge Britain, isolated from our key trading, cultural and entrepreneurial partners! And no consultation! I’ll say it again: we don’t have a Prime Minister but a State Nanny who thinks she’s the sovereign! (Tumult. ‘Order! Order!’)

What I Don’t Know

I don’t know what Corbyn actually thinks of the Brexit procedures. My guess is, just like with May, that Corbyn thinks Brexit means a blank slate on which he can write his own policies.