Britain paves the way for post-Brexit trade deals

WEB_PHOTO_DAVID_DAVIS_27072017

British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Brexit Minister) David Davis.

British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Brexit Minister) David Davis.

WEB_PHOTO_DAVID_DAVIS_27072017

British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Brexit Minister) David Davis.

British Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union (Brexit Minister) David Davis.

LONDON - Britain is busy laying the groundwork for post-Brexit trade with a flurry of international diplomacy - but can only tentatively explore options until it officially departs the European Union.

Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May's government stepped up talks in recent months with the United States, Japan and Commonwealth countries, seeking to carve out ambitious accords for the post-Brexit era.

US President Donald Trump this week touted the prospects of a "very big" trade pact with Britain, raising eyebrows in Brussels - where Brexit talks have barely got off the ground after starting last month.

His surprise words came as British trade minister Liam Fox met his US counterpart Robert Lighthizer for top-level talks, before heading to Mexico.

The United States is Britain's largest national export market - bigger than France and Germany combined - and the number one destination for British investment.

Foreign Minister Boris Johnson was meanwhile on a globetrotting tour of the southern hemisphere, stopping off last week in Australia and New Zealand, having already drummed up business in Japan.

Johnson, a leading campaigner for Britain to quit the European Union prior to the June 2016 shock Brexit referendum, declared New Zealand could expect to be one of the first nations to ink a trade deal with London.

 

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Britain is keen to maintain its global place as a major commercial power in the world economy.

International trade to and from Britain is worth an estimated £700-billion (R10-trillion) - and around half of that is with the EU.

Chickens home to roost?

The debate about post-Brexit trade took a less than entirely serious turn in recent days, with a focus on whether Britain will import chlorine-washed chickens from the United States as part of any deal.

Fox said there is "no health issue" with the controversial practice, while Environment Secretary Michael Gove insisted they will not be allowed into Britain.

The importing of poultry washed in chlorinated water - a process commonly used by US producers to disinfect chicken - is banned in the EU.

London's Times newspaper meanwhile cautioned over the rush to seal a deal with Trump.

"Last year 19 percent of UK exports went to the United States compared with 44 percent to the EU," the daily newspaper said in a leader column.

"No published analysis suggests that a US deal could make up the difference.

"If ministers pin their hopes on a speedy trade deal with Trump's America, it will not be long before those chlorine-doused chickens come home to roost."