Liam Fox humiliated after returning empty-handed from US tariff talks

Friday, 16 March, 2018

Liam Fox’s mission to Washington DC appeared to end in failure yesterday, as no progress was made in his attempt to be granted an exemption to Donald Trump’s steel tariffs. Having labelled the tariffs "absurd" on BBC Question Time last week and boasted they were the reason for his trip to Washington, Fox's statement on the talks consigned the issue to a virtual footnote. Instead, his department paraded the launch of a small advice booklet for businesses as the achievement of the meeting.  

Nick Dearden, director of Global Justice Now said:
“Liam Fox is returning from Washington with his bushy tail between his legs. He made a big bravado about flying out specially to get a tariff exemption from Donald Trump. But his statement today shows he’s achieved nothing of the sort. The announcement he must have scrabbled around for – a short guide for small businesses trading in the US – would barely have required an email exchange to agree, never mind a visit from the secretary of state.

“We always feared that a trade deal with the US was going to cost us – this just proves quite how costly it will be to get a deal. We must be extremely vigilant as to what’s being traded away in these conversations. The first step must be bringing an end to the secretive nature of the US-UK trade talks when they resume next week.”   

Trump announced new, steep tariffs on steel last week, claiming unfair competition from China was destroying the US steel industry. But Trump also promised he will make exemptions to ‘friends’. Australia is one of the countries promised an exemption, but it is believed this was in return for an increase in defence expenditure.

The Department for International Trade also announced that the US-UK trade working group would hold its third set of talks in Washington on 20 March. The talks have been criticised for a lack of transparency after the two countries agreed keep details of discussions secret for four years after their conclusion.


Photo: Liam Fox on BBC Question Time last week

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