© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The flags of the United States and the United Kingdom stand after bi-lateral photo between U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson was cancelled at the State Department in Washington, U.S. March 22, 201
By Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. and British officials will begin two days of meetings in Baltimore on Monday to discuss strengthening trade ties, as the United States and its allies ratchet up pressure on Russia over its war in Ukraine and China for failing to condemn it.
Senior U.S. trade officials described the talks, which include a tour of the port of Baltimore and meetings with U.S. workers and industry executives, as a broad effort to take stock of the $153 billion bilateral trade relationship, with specific irritants to be set aside and dealt with in separate talks.
“The purpose of this dialogue is to work together to make our trade smarter, and to help our workers and businesses compete in a really tough global economy,” one senior U.S. trade official told reporters.
The two sides are “making progress” in separate talks on resolving a dispute over U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs, the official said, but other agencies are leading those efforts.
Washington also remains concerned about UK food safety standards that prevent imports of U.S. chlorine-treated chicken, but will address that issue separately, a second official said.
U.S. and UK officials said this week’s meetings do not mark a resumption of formal talks about a free trade agreement held under the former Trump administration and suspended once President Joe Biden took office.
Such agreements “are just one tool at our disposal and … we really do need to be creative and think outside the box when it comes to trade policy,” a third senior trade official said. “That’s what this dialogue will help us unpack.”
The two sides will meet again later this spring in Britain, but the location has not been finalized, officials said.
Close coordination on economic sanctions, export controls and trade measures imposed on Russia had brought Europe and the United States closer together, while highlighting the threat posed by non-market economies like China, the official said.
“The challenges that we face … are the same ones the Europeans face. And so I really do think that there is … an inflection point here in many ways.”
Key priorities for U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai include collaboration on expanding labor rights, decarbonizing their economies, promoting racial and gender equity, and the “democratizing” benefits of the digital economy, officials said.
Marjorie Chorlins, senior vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who will take part in meeting with British officials, said it was disappointing that there were no plans to resume the talks on a free trade agreement anytime soon.
“We should have been able to restart the U.S.-UK negotiations. We were five rounds in and a lot of great work was done. This should have been easy lift with one of our closest allies.”