New U.S. trade chief Tai to speak next week with British counterpart: source

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senate Finance Committee conducts hearing on nomination of Katherine Tai to be U.S. Trade Representative.
FILE PHOTO: Katherine C. Tai addresses the Senate Finance committee hearings to examine her nomination to be United States Trade Representative, with the rank of Ambassador, in Washington, DC February 25, 2021. Bill O'Leary/Pool via REUTERS

March 18, 2021

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Newly confirmed U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai is expected to hold a call next week with British trade minister Liz Truss to discuss a range of trade issues between the two allies, a person familiar with the arrangements said on Thursday.

The call would come as the United States and Britain have agreed to a four-month suspension of some tariffs in an effort to resolve the long-running dispute over subsidies to Airbus and Boeing Co.

The 17-year dispute with the UK and European Union countries is among the first major issues on Tai’s to-do list as she takes office. Britain and the United States have also been trying to negotiate a comprehensive trade agreement, but the talks have largely been on ice since President Joe Biden was elected in November.

Officials with the U.S. Trade Representative’s office and the UK Department of International Trade did not respond to requests for comment on the call.

The Biden administration has said it wants to patch up relations with allies that have been battered by former President Donald Trump’s tariffs and trade threats, especially to more broadly confront China’s trade practices. But it has not indicated a specific desire to complete the UK trade agreement.

In answers to senators’ questions during her confirmation process, Tai was noncommittal about a making a deal.

“If confirmed, I plan to carefully review the status of the negotiations with the United Kingdom,” Tai wrote in response to a question from Republican Senator Richard Burr. “In general, and in consultation with Congress, I will craft a trade policy consistent with the Build Back Better agenda that prioritizes the interest of America’s workers and supports a strong recovery for our economy.”

(Reporting by David Lawder in Washington; Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper in London and Sabahatjahan in Bengaluru; editing by Jonathan Oatis)