Top trade officials from the U.S. and UK will meet in Baltimore next week — the first of two scheduled meetings announced Wednesday by the Biden administration — sparking new hope that the two countries are moving closer to negotiations for a free trade agreement.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai will meet with British Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan at the Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel for talks Monday and Tuesday.

The Office of the USTR did not describe the meetings as negotiations, but rather as a “discussion” to “explore how the United States and United Kingdom can collaborate to advance mutual international trade priorities rooted in our shared values, while promoting innovation and inclusive economic growth for workers and businesses on both sides of the Atlantic.”

The U.S. began talks with the UK during the final year of the Trump administration, but those talks were put on hold after the election.

The U.S. poultry sector has been hoping for the U.S. to press the British over restrictions on American chicken. Jim Sumner, president of the USA Poultry and Egg Export Council, says he’s pleased about the meetings.

“It’s encouraging to know that they’re having these discussions,” Sumner told Agri-Pulse. “It would be great if something positive could come out of it.”

The UK effectively bans U.S. poultry because of the common practice of using antimicrobial rinses to prevent salmonella contamination.

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The USA Rice Federation considers the UK a growing market and sees a path to expanding trade if the two countries can agree to drop tariffs on each other.

“These talks are long overdue and we’re anxious to see some progress made towards a comprehensive free trade agreement with the UK, a historically important market for the U.S. rice industry,” said Peter Bachmann, vice president of international trade policy for the Rice Federation. “We see a lot of opportunity for growth if the UK were to open up to duty-free and quota-free for rice. We are also hopeful that the (Biden) Administration will be prioritizing removal of the Section 232 tariffs with their British counterparts to help relieve some of the pressure rice and other agricultural products have been under for the last three years.”

The U.S. and UK together announced in January that they had begun to negotiate an end to the tariff spat that was started when the Trump administration hit Europe with tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Trevelyan said her talks with Tai will continue in the UK later this year after the meetings next week.

“Trade is central to the UK's Levelling Up Agenda and how we will deepen UK-U.S. trade links in a way that benefits communities across the United Kingdom," she said.

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