Washington, DC – Below is a transcript of United States Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer’s opening remarks at the formal launch of trade negotiations between the United States and the United Kingdom:
I would like to begin by offering the sympathy and solidarity of the United States to all the citizens of the United Kingdom who are suffering from the coronavirus scourge. These are difficult times for both our countries and we are each made stronger by our friendship.
I am happy to formally open negotiations that will hopefully lead to a free trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom. I need not dwell on the unique relationship that our two countries have. Ours is among the most important alliances in human history.
A little less than a year ago on June 3, 2019, President Trump was visiting the United Kingdom on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of D-Day. In his toast at the State dinner, the President paid appropriate homage to the Queen’s great accomplishments and then he addressed the broader relationship by saying: “The bond between our nations was forever sealed in that ‘Great Crusade.’ As we honor our shared victory and heritage, we affirm the common values that will unite us long into the future: freedom, sovereignty, self-determination, the rule of law, and reverence for the rights given to us by Almighty God.”
Indeed, this bond also has long had an economic aspect. We each have large economies. For many years we have been very closely connected. There is almost $270 billion in two-way trade, we are each other’s largest source of foreign investment and we each employ about a million citizens of the other country. This I would suggest is a strong start.
Our objective in these talks is to grow this economic relationship even closer. Our ambition is to write an agreement that has high standards in the digital and other services sectors, that will eliminate barriers to trade and that will incorporate best practices in all sectors. If we are successful, benefit will flow to workers, farmers, and businessmen on both sides of the Atlantic.
This current COVID-19 health crisis makes these talks even more urgent. While this is at first a health crisis, each of us is also facing an economic crisis perhaps like never before. But we need to prepare now for the day when the health crisis recedes and lay the foundations for stronger, more resilient economies.
This crisis has demonstrated how important it is to have strong and diverse supply chains with trusted trade partners to support our economies. It has shown that we need to have a healthy manufacturing base and workers and farmers that are thriving. It has shown that depending purely on cheap imports for strategic products can make us vulnerable in times of crisis. Moreover, it has confirmed that we need to think carefully about our trade policies and how we work with our trading partners.
Finally, I would note that President Trump and Prime Minister Johnson have tasked you, Secretary of State Truss, and me to work diligently on these talks. I know we are both committing the necessary resources. Speaking for the American side, we look forward to getting underway, to hard work, and hopefully a successful outcome that makes workers, farmers, and businessmen in both our countries more prosperous and happier. Now let’s get started.
To watch a video of the opening statements, click here.