The U.S. is only months away from one of the most contentious elections in modern history. With President Donald Trump’s re-election hopes in doubt, at least according to the deceptive polling numbers, should it be business as usual for the White House? Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Conservatives have been pushing trade negotiations with their American counterparts, leaving the talking heads befuddled as to why either side would partake in discussions ahead of an electoral battle.
A Stiff Upper Lip
For two weeks, U.S. and British trade negotiators have been participating in the third round of negotiations. Both sides have conceded that a final agreement is unlikely to happen before the November election. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer acknowledged that “it’s going to take time,” while the U.K. Department for International Trade conceded that “there is no timeframe.”
In a post-Brexit economy, the United Kingdom needs to emphasize its trade relations with its major economic partners. U.S.-U.K. annual trade is worth approximately $280 billion, which has been hampered as they slug it out over tariffs. Plus, as the prime minister tries to lead a nation without being chained to Brussels, he might need to flex his geo-strategic might, too.
There is also the prospect of former Vice President Joe Biden winning in November. Why would this be a big deal for the Tory government? Biden and Democrats have been lukewarm to the concept of Brexit, and the presumptive nominee is reportedly more adamant about concentrating on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with Europe than a landmark agreement with a freshly independent Britain. Biden might also want to get back in on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called the “gold standard of trade agreements.”
But Prime Minister Johnson is hoping to make progress and iron out details that matter to Britons no matter what. Despite the prospect of a new administration and fresh team of representatives that would generate numerous complications for the chancellor at 11 Downing Street, could the prime minister be looking at it as a case of what is there to lose? If the two sides strike a deal, the U.K. would possess the momentum, even if it does not pass the current House of Representatives. If a pact falls through, then it was worth a shot, and now it is a coin-toss between Biden and Trump.
Whatever happens in a couple of months, the White House must finish talks with Britain by April 1 to qualify for so-called fast-track status that can speed a deal through Congress. Until then, the British will need to keep a stiff upper lip and all that. Pip pip cheerio.
160 Days More
A compelling component of the media’s coverage of U.S.-U.K. trade talks is the idea that the incumbent administration should put everything on hold. It is as if Trump’s defeat is inevitable. Even if Trump were not seeking re-election in 90 days or his defeat had a 99.9% certainty, should he put everything on hold? The chief executive officer of a Fortune 500 company would not pause operations if he or she were exiting the business. Why should a president? Trump’s term ends January 20, 2021 – not before. Everything is full steam ahead for the next 160-something days, whether it is nominating a new Supreme Court Justice or signing a new trade agreement with Burkina Faso.
A Brexit Economy
On the one hand, Britain breaking the chain from the European Union was a positive development for millions of people who did not want to become subjects of Brussels. On the other, will much change in the Brexit aftermath? Indeed, the benefits of Brexit outweighed the cons of Bremain, but it might not lead to enhanced free trade. Politicians will continue to rely on outmoded concepts of tariffs, restrictions, and taxation. Any U.S.-U.K. agreement will still involve cronyist aspects that bastardize the free-enterprise system and contain statist measures. Still, it is better than conversing with the bureaucratic globalist monstrosity of the European Commission.
Read more from Andrew Moran.