President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May today forcefully stressed that the United States and United Kingdom plan to enter into a free-trade agreement after Britain’s planned exit from the European Union next year. That’s good news for the U.S. ag sector, which wants to sell a lot more beef, pork, rice, wheat, cotton and soybeans to the U.K.
“Turning to our economic cooperation with mutual investment between us already over $1 trillion, we want to go further,” May said in a joint press conference with Trump in Chequers, U.K. “We agreed today that as the U.K. leaves the European Union, we will pursue an ambitious U.S.-U.K. free trade agreement.”
Trump agreed, saying, “The United States looks forward to finalizing a great bilateral trading agreement with the United Kingdom. This is an incredible opportunity for our two countries and we will seize it full.”
That optimism was a turnabout from just a day earlier when Trump sat down for an interview with The Sun newspaper on Thursday. Trump was quoted saying that May’s Brexit strategy would not be a clean enough break from the EU and threatened the U.K.'s ability to enter into an FTA with the U.S.
“If they do a deal like that … we’ll be dealing with the European Union instead of dealing with the U.K., so it will probably kill the deal,” he said.
But Trump walked back that and other comments today, calling The Sun story “fake news.”
The way in which the U.K. exits the EU is important for U.S. agriculture because American farmers need the British to make a decisive break from European restrictions that effectively ban U.S. poultry and sharply limit imports of U.S. beef.
USDA Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney told Agri-Pulse in a recent interview that he’s optimistic about a free-trade pact with the UK.
“We must respect the Brexit process … but should the U.K. move forward with Brexit, of course we see opportunities for agriculture,” McKinney said.
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