By Paul Hannon
The U.S. hopes to complete a new trade agreement with the U.K. by the end of this year, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Saturday.
The U.K. will leave the European Union Friday, opening the way for it to negotiate new trade deals with the bloc and other countries around the world. One of its top priorities is an agreement with the U.S.
Speaking in London after attending the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Mr. Mnuchin said a deal is achievable this year.
"The timing is important," he told an audience of diplomats at international-relations think tank Chatham House. "We're focused on trying to get this done this year."
The U.K. will shortly start talks with the EU on the rules that will govern trade between the two after a transition period ends in December. Mr. Mnuchin said most trade issues could be negotiated in parallel, although some would have to be dealt with in talks with the EU first.
"There are certain issues that perhaps they need to resolve with the EU, but there are a lot of issues that can be resolved simultaneously," he said.
An agreement would boost U.S. exports to Europe's second-biggest economy, after Germany. It would also help Washington advance its trade agenda following its phase-one agreement with China and a renegotiated pact with Canada and Mexico, and expand its relationship with a key ally as it enters a new era.
"The U.K. is our most important relationship, it's a very strategic relationship," Mr. Mnuchin said. "The U.S. and the U.K. have very similar economies. I think this will be a very important relationship."
For London, an accord would demonstrate Britain's ability to secure major economic deals as it divorces from the EU, its biggest trading partner. It could also provide a lifeline to crucial U.K. industries, including finance and business services.
American and British businesses, from tech companies to farmers, are eager to export their goods, and standards, across the Atlantic.
Annual trade in goods and services between the U.K. and U.S. tops $230 billion. Roughly 20% of British exports each year go to the U.S., making it the U.K.'s largest market outside the EU. Americans account for the biggest share of foreign investment in Britain at some $425 billion.
"There'll be a lot more trade between the U.S. and the U.K.," Mr. Mnuchin said.
Write to Paul Hannon at firstname.lastname@example.org