President Obama famously warned the British that Brexit would put the United Kingdom at the “back of the queue” when it comes to trades deals. Fortunately, Obama will be out of the White House in a few days, and his successor has other ideas.
President-elect Trump, in his first interview with the British press, said:
I will be meeting with [Prime Minister Theresa May]. She’s requesting a meeting and we’ll have a meeting right after I get into the White House and it’ll be, I think we’re gonna get something done very quickly.
We’re gonna work very hard to get it done quickly and done properly. Good for both sides.
Naturally, Boris Johnson, the UK’s foreign minister, was upbeat about this news:
We hear that we are first in line to do a great free trade deal with the United States. So, it’s going to be a very exciting year for both our countries.
Trump may drive a fairly hard bargain. After all, the hostile stance of Britain’s former partners in the EU gives the U.S. considerable leverage.
But Trump seems well-disposed towards the UK — something of an Anglophile — and thus may not be inclined to squeeze too hard. Trade deals aren’t always just about economics. They may also have a diplomatic dimension.
In the case of Britain, Trump says he hopes that a trade deal will “make Brexit a great thing.” And if Brexit turns out to be even a good thing for Britain, it may encourage other nations to leave the EU — something Trump appears to favor.
Bilateral trade agreements will likely be the order of the day under Trump. The demise of the TPP may lead to such deals between the U.S. and certain key Asian nations, starting perhaps with Japan.
When Congress scotched the TPP, it passed a related bill providing “fast-track” trade promotion authority to the White House. This legislation allows a trade deal to be ratified with just a simple majority of votes in Congress during the next six years.
Thus, Trump will be in a strong position when it comes to ratifying whatever deals he reaches.
In any event, it looks like we will very soon will have a president who fully values the “special relationship” between the U.S. and the UK, not just in word but also in deed — a president who reportedly plans to reinstall that bust of Winston Churchill in the oval office.
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