One of the advantages of Brexit is that the UK will be free to agree its own trade deals with the rest of the world for the first time in nearly 50 years.

However, until the UK formally leaves the European Union the EU Commission in Brussels has exclusive competence to negotiate trade deals on behalf of the European Union. So whilst the UK can commence trade talks, it is not allowed under its international treaty obligations with the other EU Member States to formally enter into any trading pacts until it has seceded from the EU trading bloc.

On 2 February 2017, the House of Commons International Trade Committee announced that it was launching an inquiry into the potential for a UK-US trade agreement.

This inquiry constitutes one of the first steps for the UK in attempting to reshape its economic relationships with the rest of the world. However there is an element of nervousness in both Brussels and London that any outline agreement with the Americans could impact the progress of negotiations with the EU.

The main aim of the inquiry is to analyse the challenges as well as opportunities such a trade agreement might present. It will consider the implications for the production and sale of goods and services between the two countries. The Committee hopes this will enable them to make helpful recommendations to the Government on how best to approach their future negotiations with the Trump Administration.

As part of its inquiry the International Trade Committee is inviting written submissions from interested organisations and individuals about their views on the scope and content of any future US/UK trade agreement. The Committee is particularly interested in the following areas:

  • what the UK’s priorities and objectives should be in negotiating any such agreement;
  • the possible impacts (both positive and negative) on specific sectors of the UK economy which could arise from such an agreement;
  • the extent to which any agreement could and should open-up markets in services, including public services;
  • the extent to which any agreement could and should open-up markets in public procurement. The EU/Canadian Agreement (CETA), agreed recently, opens up Canadian Federal and Provincial procurement opportunities to EU business for the first time. Should this be a goal for the US talks and how would that interface with Trump’s “America First” campaign;
  • how any agreement should approach regulation, including regulatory harmonisation;
  • what dispute-resolution mechanism should form part of any such agreement. In particular should there be an investor/state settlement procedure; and
  • what involvement, if any, the UK should seek to have in the North American Free Trade Area or any future regional free trade agreement involving the USA.

However there is not much time for interested organisations to make their views known on such a complex and detailed subject. The deadline for written submissions to the Committee is Monday 27 February 2017.

In these post Brexit referendum days it appears that the UK Parliament, as well as the UK Government, appear to be falling over themselves to make things happen quickly to establish their pro-Brexit credentials to their electorate.

Sounds like the US and the UK Administrations probably have a lot more in common than people imagined.