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Liz Truss ‘won’t put deadline on US trade deal’, claiming ‘interlocutors will use time pressure against us’

Liz Truss spoke to a Lords committee about the prospects of a UK-US trade deal (Parliamentlive.TV)

3 min read

Liz Truss said she will not “set a deadline” on agreeing a trade deal with the US as it could be "used against us”.

The International Trade Secretary said the decision was "very deliberate”, because it was “dangerous to make a prediction”.

She was asked about the progress on getting an agreement with America and Japan by a House of Lords committee.

“We have never publicly stated a timeframe for the US deal and that’s deliberate,” Ms Truss said.

“We do not want our interlocutors to use time pressure against us.

“We won't set a deadline and say we will meet that deadline. It’s dangerous to make a prediction.”

She told peers on the EU International Agreement Sub-Committee we "don't want to sacrifice quality for speed” when asked about how much progress her department had made.

However she admitted it hadn't been "the most auspicious" start to negotiations given the pandemic, adding that we are "progressing as fast as we can". 

But the Cabinet minister said one of the obstacles was the threat of further US tariffs which could hit the UK’s gin industry, something she said she was "outraged" by.

America has already imposed tariffs on products such as Scotch whisky in a transatlantic trade dispute over European subsidies for plane manufacturer Airbus, and is due to decide whether to impose further tariffs on August 12.

"We are certainly not going to accept the US hitting British industries like gin with additional tariffs”, she said.

Ms Truss promised to present American trade representative Robert Lighthizer with a bottle of gin to show "what the Americans could be missing out on" if tariffs are imposed.

"No-one is more outraged than me about these retaliatory tariffs and I have been speaking to affected businesses this week and I share their concerns and frustrations," she added.

"It is a very frustrating situation for an industry that has absolutely nothing to do with original dispute.”

And she hinted to peers tariffs on gin could derail the whole talks, saying they would be "hugely detrimental to our negotiations and I think the British public would lose support for negotiations to continue were there to be additional tariffs levied".

The trade secretary also rejected the suggestion the EU trade deal must be agreed before the US and Japanese agreements can be signed, saying they can be done in parallel.

A spokesperson for the UK Spirits Alliance, which represents 230 distillers across the country, said they were pleased Ms Truss had pledged to fight the plans.

“This is an important first test of the government’s vision for Global Britain with more than 6,500 jobs at risk," they added. 

"The French were able to get tariffs removed on Champagne by negotiating directly with the US on a similar trade dispute. Our government needs to take action – the clock is ticking with fewer than 20 days left to take back control and stand up for British jobs."

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