May blasted for “subservience to US interests” ahead of Trump trade meeting

Financial experts and social justice campaigners express grave concern over standards and economic sense of May-Trump post-Brexit deal

A UK-US trade deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May and US President Donald Trump would result in lower agricultural standards and leave UK consumers at the mercy of US interests according to campaigners and financial experts.

The criticisms come ahead of May’s trip to the US tomorrow (Friday 27 January) to meet Trump for the first time as she struggles to define UK trade post-Brexit.

Detractors of a prospective post-Brexit deal have said there is no evidence that a swift deal can be concluded to the mutual benefit of both nations, given Trump’s protectionist stance during his campaign.

“The President’s “America First” policy would tend to suggest that any free trade arrangement negotiated by his administration would be necessarily subservient to US economic interests.” Ciarán McGonagle

Speaking to CommonSpace, Ciarán McGonagle, a lawyer with expertise in the financial sector who has worked for institutions such as Deutsche Bank, said: “For those who believe that the UK can conclude a swift, comprehensive and mutually beneficial free trade agreement with the United States, President Trump’s remarks during his inaugural address should be a cause for some considerable concern.

“The President’s ‘America First’ policy, demonstrated by his withdrawal from TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership] and stated intention to renegotiate Nafta [North American Free Trade Agreement], would tend to suggest that any free trade arrangement negotiated by his administration would be necessarily subservient to US economic interests.

“This potentially means lower agricultural and food standards, opening up the NHS to US pharmaceutical and commercial healthcare providers and making a range of other concessions to a President who holds himself out as the consummate deal-maker.  All of this is likely to prove anathema to British voters and, significantly, will do little to address the trade barriers that may  be imposed following the UK’s exit from the EU.”

“A US-UK trade deal cooked up by Theresa May and Donald Trump should ring very loud alarm bells.” Nick Dearden

Global Justice Now (GJN) has voiced particular concern that a US-UK post-Brexit trade deal would negatively impact farming, finance, consumer privacy and the NHS, giving US corporations powers to avoid the UK regulatory framework.

For example, US negotiators when dealing with the EU have consistently complained about European food and farming regulations, which prevent high-chemical, low-animal welfare farming as “trade barriers”. These concerns have been heightened by the Trump administration’s general attitude to climate change, removing reference of it on the White House website and signing executive actions to oil pipelines previously earmarked as environmentally suspect.

Commenting on the trip, director of GJN Nick Dearden, said: “A US-UK trade deal cooked up by Theresa May and Donald Trump should ring very loud alarm bells. For starters, Trump is unequivocal that he will only make trade deals that put the USA first, while May is desperate to ink anything to show that the UK has a trading future outside the European single market. That power imbalance means May is likely to concede all manner of ground to Trump for the sake of trying to shore up her own political credibility – and those concessions will carry a heavy price for British citizens.”

“President Trump’s remarks during his inaugural address should be a cause for some considerable concern.” Ciarán McGonagle

In the last 25 years US free trade agreements have typically taken much longer than a year to negotiate. The US-South Korea Free Trade Agreement negotiated by George W Bush, was one of the quickest, taking 13 months to conclude.

However, it was four more years before the US Congress finally approved the deal during former President Obama’s first term in 2009.

Following the vote to leave the EU, the UK Government faces time constraints making it difficult for a US-UK trade deal to be finalised and passed before 2020. This is because Theresa May faces the task of extraction from the EU, a process which could take up to two years.

Dearden added: “The rise of Trump and right-wing populism across Europe has been fuelled by our broken economic system, which puts the demands of the ‘1 per cent’ ahead of the rights and needs of the vast majority of humanity. A US-UK trade deal between May and Trump would likely deepen this inequality, rather than foster the sort of economic policies that could combat poverty, inequality and climate change.”

Picture courtesy of rethought

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