So the leader of the free world is to be a man without much enthusiasm for free trade.
Much of Donald Trump’s electoral success relied on the seductive – but thoroughly misguided – message that protectionism was the way to achieve more jobs and greater prosperity. Yet more tariffs would make Americans – and the rest of the world – poorer.
British PM Theresa May phoned congrats to Pres-elect Trump. The leaders
discussed building on the "very special " US-UK relationship.
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) November 10, 2016
The simple truth about trade is that it is a mutual benefit – to think of it favouring one country or another is to miss the basic concept.
Of course trade deals do not always amount to free trade – there can be any number of fiddly distortions. By all means renegotiate if it means smoothing those out. Let us seek to ensure the deals are simple, fair and transparent.
But obstacles to trade would help nobody. I would hope that despite some of his campaign rhetoric that as an international businessman Trump would understand that.
Trump has familial and ideological links to the UK. One thing I really wouldn't worry about is the special relationship.
— Tim Stanley (@timothy_stanley) November 10, 2016
The good news is that from a British perspective there is every prospect that a free trade deal between the UK and the USA will be boosted by the Trump administration.
Trump is an unabashed Brexit backer and will be keen to see us make a success of it.
During the EU referendum campaign, Barack Obama told us that in seeking a trade deal the British would have to get to the “back of the queue”. Trump retorted in a British TV interview: “You would certainly not be at the back of the queue, that I can tell you.”
The dark warning from George Osborne that Brexit would leave the UK “friendless” in the world looks more ridiculous than ever.
Already the USA is Britain’s biggest trading partner. While our trade with the EU has long been declining, our trade with the USA has been flourishing. 17% of our exports (worth £88 billion) go to there while 9% of our imports (£52 billion) come from there.
Boosting both figures would be good for both countries. Average tariffs are only about 3% – but that is still a nuisance. It still serves to gums up the works. Let’s have complete free trade.
Economic reality would give impetus for a deal regardless of the Presidential elections – that is why Obama’s comment was so absurd. But it naturally helps to have goodwill.
Rather than having a political motive to act as a drag on progress Trump will be keen to push it along. Pleas from Eurocrats to go slow to help save the EU would not be well-received. Trump rather feels that if the EU did break up that would a welcome development.
Of course it’s not all about The Donald. The British Conservatives and American Republicans are sister parties – both are members of the International Democrat Union.
Liam Fox, the International Trade Secretary, has long standing friendships with Rudy Giuliani and John Bolton, who may well have a role to play in the Trump administration.
There are plenty of other long standing personal relationships that bridge the Atlantic. I hope that as well as trade that could also help curb some of Trump’s isolationist instincts on foreign policy.
The Special Relationship will be needed more than at any time since the end of the Cold War.
As the UK becomes an outward-looking, independent nation we must encourage the USA not to turn inward.
A positive approach to Brexit from the USA will help show that great nation wishes to engage in a world of opportunity.