Dodgy Donald won’t trade with us

Opinion Posted 28/11/16
What does the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States mean for our trade in food with that country?

Here’s a taste of what’s in store. Earlier this year, a DEFRA website proclaimed the free trade Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal, which is being negotiated with the United States through the European Union. DEFRA said the deal could help secure market access for thousands more UK food and drink companies, boosting exports to the US by £500 million.

But the trouble is Mr Trump doesn’t like the TTIP, and he has already vowed to tear up another free trade agreement covering 12 countries, the Trans Pacific Partnership.

Donald doesn’t like the deals because he thinks they will hurt American workers and undercut US companies. His stance on trade is protectionist: he has vowed to shield Americans from the effects of globalised trade by slapping hefty tariffs on cheap Chinese imports of up to 45%.

He has even talked of getting rid of NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Area, and questioned the US relationship with the World Trade Organisation. Like the Brexiters, he is isolationalist and afraid of globalisation.

Of course, the effect of this stance on our trade in food with the US is difficult to calculate. But that same DEFRA website – which was pontificating before the arrival of ardent Brexiters Andrea Leadsom and George Eustice at their current posts – gave a good idea. It said: “In a recent survey, 90% of the UK’s spirit and wine producers believed that leaving the EU could jeopardise £3.6 billion worth of export trade to non EU countries, such as the US.”

Since Ms Leadsom arrived at DEFRA, she and George have been desperate to flag up any trade deals which don’t depend on the EU. In July, they were thrilled to report that a “US decision to press ahead with plans to lift export restrictions on British lamb is great news for our farmers who are one step closer to gaining access to the lucrative American market, worth an estimated £35million a year.”

That was before the US election. So what will Donald make of it? Not much, because it undermines US business. Mind you, it’s hard to be sure, because Donald says something one day and says the opposite the next. He was going to lock up Hillary Clinton, and now he isn’t.

It’s just possible he’ll ring Andrea after a round of golf with Vladimir one day and say: “Hey, I fancy some British beef. That’d be really nice. Perhaps you could send a box to Trump Tower and I’ll get the ships ready.” But on current performance, you wouldn’t bet on it.


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