Brown calls for free trade deal with the US

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The Independent Online

Gordon Brown will today urge the United States to back plans for a new agreement with Europe that would in effect create a transatlantic free trade area.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer will use a speech in New York to call for a "new era of engagement" between the two economic superpowers.

He said that the European Union and the US should go into the new round of trade talks in November with a joint promise to reduce both areas' tariffs to zero.

Other areas where barriers could be removed would in recognition of professional qualifications, common rules on competition and regulation and the elimination of obstacles to establishing companies on each other's markets.

"In forging this stronger economic relationship Britain can, and must, play a pivotal role," Mr Brown will tell the British-American Chamber of Commerce. "Britain does not have to choose between US and Europe but instead is well-positioned as the vital link between the two."

The Chancellor will call for a new study into the economic benefits of enhanced links, on the line of the Cecchini report into the European single markets.

Treasury officials stressed that any agreement would have to be ratified as part of the World Trade Organisation's talks in Qatar later this year.

"This about giving a kick-start to the multilateral talks with the European Union and United States showing leadership," said an official.

A zero-tariff agreement could boost exports to the US in a range of areas. America currently imposes 28 per cent tariff on ceramics for hotels and restaurants and 31.4 per cent on lead crystal glasswear.

Cashmere textiles carry tariffs of 17 to 18 per cent "Safety" footwear, such as Doc Marten boots carry a 37.5 per cent rate. The European Union, in return, imposes a 22 per cent tariff on the import of cars from America.

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