British Prime Minister Johnson talked with the new U.S. President Biden on the phone on January 23, becoming the first European leader to call after Biden took office. According to statements issued by the Prime Minister’s Office and the White House of the United States, Johnson and Biden held discussions on the coronavirus epidemic, the suspension of the withdrawal of the United States from the WHO, and the continued deepening of relations between the two sides.
However, on the issue of the British-US Free Trade Agreement, which has attracted much attention from the outside world, the outside world obviously feels the “temperature difference” between Britain and the United States on this issue.
According to Bloomberg, in the British statement, it specifically mentioned that “reaching a potential Anglo-US free trade agreement will bring benefits to the two countries”, but the U.S. statement did not mention it.
Although British officials stressed that the two sides are still holding technical consultations, the United States and the United Kingdom have obviously not been at the same pace on this key economic and trade agreement related to the post-Brexit.
Politico, a US political news website, believes that this shows that the long-standing “special relationship” between Britain and the United States has changed due to “Brexit”.
The “temperature difference” between Britain and the United States in the free trade agreement reflects the difference in the current focus of the two governments.
Since the trade between Britain and the United States is basically flat, from the perspective of trade balance, it seems impossible for both countries to unlock potential wealth space through a new trade agreement, so the agreement is more like a “political document” than an “economic document”.
For the Johnson administration, the Anglo-US Free Trade Agreement is one of the top priorities after Brexit. In Johnson’s view, the agreement is one of the key projects for his re-establishment of Britain’s global relations and international status.
At the same time, it is also his excellent achievement to show the British people that Britain regains control of its trade policymaking power.
But for the Biden administration, which has just taken charge of the White House, in the face of the still raging coronavirus epidemic, deeply torn American society and a highly opposing political environment, the energy of the new White House owner will be largely involved in domestic affairs, and I’m afraid that he will not be able to take into account the British and American free trade negotiations in the short term.
Jane Psaki, White House Press Secretary, said at a press conference on January 22 that the White House is now more focused on epidemic prevention and control and pushing Congress to promote a $1.9 trillion relief plan for the epidemic.
There is no timetable for reaching a new trade agreement.
In a late 2020 report asserted by the U.S. political news website Politico, it was almost impossible for Britain and the United States to reach a free trade agreement in 2021, which quoted Lewis Lukens, who served as the U.S. Deputy Ambassador to the United Kingdom under the Obama and Trump administrations, as saying, “The current The best case is to reach an agreement in 2022.”
The “temperature difference” between Britain and the United States in the free trade agreement is also closely related to the difference in the status of Britain and the United States in their respective trade maps.
The bilateral economic and trade relations between Britain and the United States do not correspond to each other in the respective trade relations between Britain and the United States.
By country, the United States is the largest trading partner of the United Kingdom, with trade with the United States accounting for about 15% of the total British trade. Relatively speaking, the United Kingdom has not even entered the top three trading partners of the United States.
The United Kingdom is the fifth largest exporter and eighth largest import supplier of goods in the United States in 2019, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. Obviously, from an economic point of view, Britain, which has lost the “protection” of EU-related free trade agreements after Brexit, is more motivated to sign free trade agreements with other countries, but for the United States, reaching a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom is more like an “icing on the cake” and insufficient natural motivation.
The “temperature difference” between Britain and the United States in the free trade agreement is a reflection of the relative decline in Britain’s foreign policy network.
Although Johnson was the first European leader called by President Biden, and Democrats are still using what the British-American “brother relationship” once described since the Churchill era, regarding Britain as “our eternal ally”, there is no doubt that in the “post-Brexit era”, London will be less and less established for Washington than Blue. Serre, Paris and Berlin are important.
The EU is more important than Britain in a series of matters related to international and regional issues such as climate change, WTO reform, and Iran’s nuclear issue.
Charles Kupkan, a senior official of European affairs of the National Security Council in the Clinton and Obama administrations, believes that U.S. government leaders will still contact London on some important issues, but when the United States wants to reach certain agreements with it, “London will be lower” and “the United Kingdom has already been because of Brexit said goodbye to the negotiating table.
The situation of negotiating “you are in a hurry or not” in the negotiation of a free trade agreement may become another example of the “special friendship” between Britain and the United States and the no longer “special”.