The Department for International Trade has now set out the UK government’s strategic objectives for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the US. After all the negativity about Brexit over the last few years, this paper is a welcome breath of fresh air.
Indeed, even many traditional sceptics have praised the objectives as sensible and realistic. On goods, the aim is to lower or eliminate tariffs and non-tariff barriers that the US has already agreed to lower or eliminate in many other trade agreements, covering products such as cars, ceramics and cheese. On services, objectives include making it easier for UK professionals to work in the US, and vice versa. What’s not to like?
Throughout, the government has responded in fairly reasonable ways to specific public concerns about a trade deal with the US, following an extensive consultation process. Admittedly, it does sometimes feel like the government has bent over backwards to accommodate the views of special interests, including producers and activists, rather than putting the interests of consumers first. This tension is perhaps clearest in the protections for UK agriculture, but manifesto pledges probably made that inevitable.
The paper also goes a little over the top on commitments on the NHS, but this is understandable too. The mantra is that ‘the NHS will not be on the table. The price the NHS pays for drugs will not be on the table. The services the NHS provides will not be on the table. The NHS is not, and never will be, for sale to the private sector, whether overseas or domestic.’