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September 4, 2020, 04.10 PM

LONDON, – The UK will resume US trade talks on September 8 as it rushes for a deal before the year-end Brexit deadline.

The UK’s Trade Department Minister Greg Hands stated Thursday that both sides would convene next week.

He also shared that Britain has been talking to representatives from US Democrats and Republicans before America’s November presidential election.

Read also: UK and Indonesia to Complete Joint Trade Review in December

"I can announce today that the next round (of talks) will start next Tuesday, 8th September," Hands told MPs during questions on international trade policy.

He added: "We talk with all parts of the US political system.

"We make sure that senators, members of Congress, governors from both parties right the way across the United States... buy into a future UK/US free trade agreement."

Britain has made a US trade deal a major target to coincide with its exit from the EU on December 31, but hopes of concluding a deal before then appear increasingly unlikely.

Read also: EU to Trump Administration: Stop US Trade Sanctions Threats

The US Congress is required to approve any comprehensive trade agreement but presidential and congressional elections take place on November 3, restricting hopes of a quick deal.

The UK voted in a landmark referendum in June 2016 to leave the EU, and finally quit on January 31 this year.

The country is currently in a standstill transition period until the end of the year as it tries to negotiate the terms of its future relationship with Brussels.

Its formal departure from the now 27-member bloc nonetheless allowed London to start trade talks with other countries.

Talks have been complicated by several issues, including US agricultural exports.

But trade secretary Liz Truss also told MPs Thursday that American chlorinated chicken — a totem for opponents fearing weaker food import standards — would remain banned under any deal.

Bilateral trade between the two countries was worth £221 billion ($293 billion, €248 billion) last year, and a free trade deal could increase this by £15.3 billion over 2018 levels in the long run, according to the British government.

At the same time as the Commons met, a political row rumbled on over the UK government's possible appointment of Australia's former Prime Minister Tony Abbott as a trade envoy to help with post-Brexit deals.

Read also: Indonesia's Sumatra Destroys 3.8 Tons of Contaminated, Undocumented Australian Beef

London-born Abbott has been criticized for being a climate change skeptic, and for positions considered misogynist and homophobic.

The main opposition Labour party has called him a "Trump-worshipping misogynist".

Ministers were forced to back his record on Thursday. Health Secretary Matt Hancock defended Abbott's views to Sky News television, saying he was also an expert in trade.

Questioned about any appointment in the Commons, Hands told MPs that he welcomed "the fact that a former Prime Minister of Australia is willing to help this country out". 

(DMH/PHZ/WAI, Agence France-Presse)


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