As UK-US talks on a free trade deal officially get underway, there’s hope in the SME community that an opportunity arises which will help mitigate some of the damage caused by Covid-19.
Almost 200 negotiators will be locked in detailed discussions, via video call, every six weeks in a deal that could see UK-US trade, already valued at almost £221bn a year, expand massively. The big hope for UK exporters is that tariffs imposed by the US, especially on farming, textiles, food and manufactured goods products, are lifted.
International trade secretary, Liz Truss commented at the commencement of discussions that: “The US is our largest trading partner and increasing transatlantic trade can help our economies bounce back from the economic challenge posed by coronavirus.
“We don’t just want any trade agreement. We want an agreement that will work for small business, an agreement that works for consumers and workers, and an agreement that will benefit all regions and nations of the UK.”
Currently, there are 30,000 SMEs in the UK exporting to the US and Federation of Small Businesses surveys have found that it’s the most important export market for these businesses – 46% saying it’s their key target region over the next three years.
Mike Cherry, national chair of the FSB commented that: “For small businesses, the US is the number one single market of choice for importers and exporters for the next three years, which is why these negotiations are so critical. With our economy likely to be suppressed for some time, we are going to need small businesses that trade to lead the way.
“Small businesses are already the backbone of the UK’s domestic economy. And especially in these difficult times, we now need to see their share of global trade start to catch up. We can do this by putting SMEs front and centre of all new trade agreements.
“Securing a pro-small business free trade agreement, which includes a comprehensive and dedicated small business chapter, will be essential to addressing the needs and distinct challenges that small firms face when engaged in transatlantic trade.”