For the UK to win in its US Free Trade Agreement negotiations, it must first understand Americans

On the back of today’s leaked letter from consumer group Which? to International Trade Secretary Liz Truss urging the UK to stand firm on the country’s food standards in its US trade deal negotiations, it reveals its research findings that nearly 3 in 4 members of the public do not want chlorine-washed chicken or hormone-fed beef entering the UK market, in line with the PM’s election promise that the UK would "not compromise on our high environmental protection, animal welfare and food standards".

Given the strategic importance to the UK of American commerce and its economy – Britain’s largest trading partner – of having the right negotiation strategy and knowing the US mindset, this Free Trade Agreement would be a major spur for its economic recovery.

With another leak in early May of Downing Street’s memo giving the British negotiating team “no specific policy” position on animal welfare in these US trade talks, a lack of preparation comes at a steep price for British farmers and consumers as the importation of US chlorinated chicken and hormone-fed beef makes this highly likely.

A “dual tariff” system is being considered currently allowing US agricultural goods to sell in Britain without requiring their compliance with current British production standards so long as they paid a tariff for market access.

With the American business culture placing great store in planning and rehearsing for negotiations, it is likely Robert Lighthizer’s team will be aligned and well prepared and likely very successful in getting their agenda achieved, while the UK team needs to articulate its agenda and do the same.

Whether the UK and US teams are well-matched is yet to be seen.  One certainty is the American explicit approach to communication leaves the UK in no doubts as to what it needs in order to win, and when.

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