IATP has submitted comments to the United States Trade Representative outlining the principles for the U.S. negotiating objectives for a trade agreement with the United Kingdom. Even though the UK is still a member state of the European Union and currently isn't allowed to negotiate separate trade agreements, the Trump administration informed Congress in October 2018 of its intention to enter into negotiations for a free trade deal with the UK, under the assumption that the Brexit process will soon conclude with an agreement to withdraw from the EU. With the UK Parliament decisively voting down the withdrawal plan agreed to between Prime Minister Theresa May's government and the European Commission, the ultimate outcome of Brexit, and indeed, the future of May's government, is now very much up in the air.
As we have previously written, withdrawing from the EU is an incredibly complex and controversial process that raises many questions about future food safety, environmental, health and labor standards in the UK. At the current time, it is by no means certain that the UK will in fact withdraw from the EU, or if it does, how closely it will hew to EU regulatory standards and what authority it will have to enter into separate trade agreements. IATP has urged USTR to reopen its comment period on negotiating objectives after the Brexit process—and the scope of the UK's authority to negotiate any trade agreements—is resolved.
In our submission, we urged USTR to aim to promote the highest possible public health, food safety, environmental and labor standards, as well as sustainable and equitable development. Public policies addressed in our comments included:
Establishing an open, participatory and inclusive process for the negotiations, including consultations with diverse stakeholders throughout, and the publication of draft proposals, negotiating texts, reports and supporting documents following each negotiating session.
Maintaining existing public protections and promoting improvements where standards differ, and assuring that an agreement with the UK does not become a vehicle to facilitate deregulation on both sides of the Atlantic.
Assuring that any trade agreement between the U.S. and UK does not include investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), the system that allows panels of three private sector lawyers to order taxpayer-funded compensation to firms that claim a country's policies undermine their expected future profits.
Protecting food sovereignty and prioritizing safe food and enhanced consumer protections.
Assuring that regulatory practices and cooperation are voluntary and set regulatory floors rather than ceilings.
Respecting federal and sub-federal procurement policies, including "Buy American" and human rights preferences, as well as food procurement and initiatives to promote healthy and sustainable public feeding programs such as farm to early care, school and institution initiatives.
Promoting climate security and sustainability, consistent with the obligations and goals of the Paris Climate Agreement and other climate measures.
Providing policy space for robust financial regulations and public services, and not limiting governments' regulation of banks, insurance companies, hedge funds and other financial service providers and financial instruments.
Assuring that intellectual property provisions do not protect corporate-led technologies over more sustainable, open source innovations of seeds and plants, hide information on agricultural pesticides, or increase healthcare costs and availability.
We also warned that any agreement must not take advantage of any regulatory lapses in a post-Brexit United Kingdom to pursue a deregulatory agenda on either side of the Atlantic. Given the level of uncertainty at this time concerning the ultimate outcome of the Brexit process, we urged USTR to reopen its comment period after the parameters of the UK's authority to negotiate specific provisions in trade agreements are clearer.