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Leaving the Eu: Negotiations

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:02 pm on 10th July 2018.

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Photo of Vincent Cable Vincent Cable Leader of the Liberal Democrats 2:02 pm, 10th July 2018

Well, there are Members of the House—I am one, and Mr Clarke is another—who have experience of dealing with the United States through negotiations on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. Several things were very clear. First, although the United States is important, it is considerably less important than the European Union in terms of our trade—it is about 18% versus 43% of our exports. There are undoubtedly some benefits to be obtained through a completely free trading arrangement with the United States; for example, there are few high-tariff points. However, by far the largest obstacle is public procurement, which is decided in the United States at state level, not federal level. The potential benefits of opening the US market are actually very limited.

The key point is that the United States made it very clear then and is now making it even clearer that it is only interested in entering into a bilateral trade agreement if it opens the market to American agriculture. That is not compatible with the Government’s commitment to maintain the regulatory rulebook on food safety and agricultural products. It is to the Government’s credit that they have agreed to do that, but it almost certainly makes it impossible to reach a trade agreement. Indeed, Wilbur Ross, the Trump Administration appointee, has made it clear that the United States will not enter into serious negotiations if freer agriculture for foodstuffs through regulation is not permitted.