Senior officials from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) are still not clear if concluding a free trade agreement with the UK is a priority for President Joe Biden.
Cynthia Guven from the USDA said that officials had made “a lot of progress” in trade negotiations with the UK during the Trump administration.
“We have a new administration, and we are not quite sure where their priorities are,” she admitted during an online event on Wednesday.
Guven, who is based in the US London embassy, said that USDA officials were still “hopeful” that a trade deal could be concluded soon. “If both sides are still very willing, we can certainly get this done,” she maintained.
In an address to the Institute of Agricultural Management, Guven argued that the international trade of agricultural products leads to “a better bottom line for every producer”.
However, a different view came from Nick von Westenholz, director of trade at the National Farmers’ Union, during his presentation.
“Free trade is predicated on winners and losers. It doesn’t work if everybody wins. You hope in the long term that it brings up productivity and standards of living, but in the short term there are losers,” von Westernholz said.
Von Westenholz appeared critical of the UK government’s approach to seeking post Brexit trade deals and pointed out that all ongoing negotiations are with countries who are major agricultural exporters.
“They will be wanting a share of the UK agricultural market. Of course, there may well be mutual benefits in return, but in reality, there is more offensive agricultural interests for those countries, particularly Australia and New Zealand, than there are for the UK,” he said.
“We expect talks with Australia and New Zealand to be wrapped up this year, notwithstanding any hiccups that might arise. As we all know, when hiccups arise with free trade agreements, its usually agriculture that’s causing them,” von Westenholz added.