U.S. and U.K. work toward post-Brexit trade deals

President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Boris Johnson hope to have something to announce at this month's G-7 summit.
Image: Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid shakes hands with U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton at Downing Street in London
Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid shakes hands with U.S. National Security adviser John Bolton in London on Aug. 13, 2019.Peter Nicholls / Reuters

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By Carol E. Lee

LONDON — President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson are seeking to make a symbolic show of unity on the world stage at their first meeting later this month by announcing progress in bilateral trade negotiations ahead of the United Kingdom’s planned exit from the European Union in October, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday.

The U.S. and the U.K. are trying to make headway on trade pacts in the next few months, with hopes of signing an agreement that takes effect the day Britain exits the E.U., the official said. That could take the shape of a series of small trade agreements on individual sectors, such as manufacturing, or a short-term broader deal, with the goal of a permanent comprehensive one to follow, the official said.

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Aides to Trump and Johnson are laying the groundwork for an announcement on the issue when they meet on the sidelines of the G-7 summit in France in two weeks. Such a statement could outline a road map for negotiations and how the two countries envision their future trade ties, the official said.

The timing of it — during the G-7 and at their first meeting — would be intended to demonstrate a united front between the U.S. and the U.K as Trump and Johnson gather with European leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.

Johnson, who was elected prime minister last month, has promised that the U.K. will leave the E.U. by Oct. 31. The deadline has set off a scramble within the Trump administration to prepare for the move on a multitude of fronts, including security and trade.

National Security adviser John Bolton was in London on Monday and Tuesday for discussions with British officials about what Brexit means for trade and security ties between the two allies. Bolton met with U.K. Trade Secretary Liz Truss on Tuesday to discuss a possible road map.

The British government has been more cautious about characterizing talks with U.S. officials on trade, pointing to E.U. rules that preclude members from signing bilateral trade agreements while part of the European bloc.

But the senior Trump administration official dismissed those rules and took a different view, saying the U.S. would not be in violation by negotiating or signing a trade agreement with the U.K. because everyone knows they’re leaving the E.U.

The official added that the U.S. and the U.K. could reach an agreement on trade that takes effect Nov. 1, and that the Johnson administration is open to the idea.