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Boris Johnson vows to drive 'hard bargain' in US trade talks

TOPSHOT - Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson (R) welcomes US President Donald Trump (L) to the NATO summit at the Grove hotel in Watford, northeast of London on December 4, 2019. (Photo by PETER NICHOLLS / various sources / AFP) (Photo by PETER NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)
Donald Trump and Boris Johnson as the UK and US prepare for trade talks. (PETER NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)

Prime minister Boris Johnson has vowed to drive a “hard bargain” in talks with the US over a trade deal due to start later this month.

The UK government is set to publish its negotiating objectives for the trade negotiations on Monday. It unveiled a similar document over EU negotiations last week, with talks expected to get underway in Brussels on Monday afternoon. The US talks will run in parale

Greater trade opportunities with the US could boost the UK economy by £3.4bn, the department for international trade said in a press release late on Sunday.

Officials say UK exporters and investors could secure greater access to US markets, with fewer tariffs and less paperwork. Carmakers, food and drink firms, ceramics manufacturers and professional services could be the “biggest winners,” according to the government.

Johnson said: “We have the best negotiators in the business and of course, we’re going to drive a hard bargain to boost British industry. Trading Scottish smoked salmon for Stetson hats, we will deliver lower prices and more choice for our shoppers.”

Read more: UK government could walk away from Brexit talks in June

But campaigners and opposition parties fear the UK may struggle in talks with Trump’s administration, which has taken a tough negotiating stance with China, the EU, Canada and Mexico. There are concerns a trade deal could allow US firms into the NHS, and risk undermining food and other UK standards.

“The government should be focused on getting a good trade deal with the EU – not cosying up to Donald Trump,” said trade union leader Frances O’Grady. “Nobody voted for chlorinated chicken or for US corporations to have more access to our personal data.”

O’Grady also warned a bad deal could put workers’ jobs and employment rights on the line.

But the government vowed to “rigorously protect” the NHS, and to ensure high standards for UK consumers and workers, including on food safety and animal welfare. It also promised one of the biggest government consultations ever, seeking the views of UK organisations and the public to inform the negotiations.

Carolyn Fairbairn, director-general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), said securing a good trade deal with the US was vital to help create new jobs and investment.

She said the government had “encouraging” plans to push for greater migration opportunities for skilled US and UK workers to move between the two countries.

Adam Marshall, director-general of the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), said firms were “enthusiastic” about new trade opportunities. But he said most firms’ main priority was a strong trade agreement with the EU.