Theresa May should not rush into US trade deal, CBI president warns

'We don't want to walk into a bear hug and I would be wary of trying to be too fast on a trade deal'

Chloe Farand
Sunday 09 July 2017 18:32
CBI president warns against rushing into free trade deal with Trump's US

The president of one of the most influential business groups in the country has warned Theresa May not to rush into a trade deal with the US.

Paul Drechsler, president of the Confederation of Business Industry (CBI), criticised the Prime Minister for seeking to make headlines instead of setting out the facts and evidence to the British public, when she met President Donald Trump at the G20 summit in Hamburg.

Mr Trump told reporters he expected a "very, very big deal" to be completed "very, very quickly".

Speaking on Sky News, Mr Drechsler, who campaigned with the CBI to remain in the EU, warned against the UK entering a "bear hug" with the US.

He said: "One has to recognise, not every trade deal is necessary a good and fair deal for both parties. The US has one of the best negotiating teams in the world in terms of trade deals.

"We don't want to walk into a bear hug and I would be wary of trying to be too fast on a trade deal. The important thing is to know what we want to achieve, what the objectives are and what the trade-offs are.

"A trade deal is a dog-eat-dog activity, it is not a diplomatic activity. And what worries me is that we are not honest to people about all these big issues so we are going for headlines rather than the facts and evidence."

Ms May promised global trade deals as the UK prepares to leave the EU but Chancellor Philip Hammond previously said the deals would make only limited difference to the British economy, because of the large proportion of UK exports that are services rather than physical goods.

Mr Drechsler's comments come days after the director-general of the CBI, Caroline Fairbairn, said the UK should not leave the single market and the customs union until a final Brexit deal is struck.

The CBI, which represents 190,000 businesses, called on Government ministers to "build a bridge from the end of the Article 50 process in March 2019 to the new deal" in order to maximise stability and certainty and "avoid a damaging cliff-edge".

The negotiations for a UK-US trade deal have not yet started and Mr Trump did not reveal any further details.

But hours after the US President's comments in Hamburg, Justice Secretary David Lidington said a trade deal between the US and the UK would not offset the damage caused by Brexit.

Speaking on BBC's Andrew Marr Show, he said the deal "would not be enough on its own" but "would be a very good thing to have, as would trade deals with the emerging economies of Asia and Latin America".

But Conservative MP for Stratford-on- Avon, Nadhim Zahawi, stressed the importance of the UK-US deal. He told Sky News: "I think the US being our closest ally - both for security and economically - will want the UK to succeed and do well and flourish with a new relationship with Europe. A strong Europe and a strong UK is good for the US. Let's not forget that and let's not talk down our relationship with America."

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