Joe Biden, who will be moving into the White House in January next year, said the US will “fight like hell” in a bid to boost the American economy. He made clear he will not be signing any deals before “major investments” are done inside the country first, potentially damaging the UK’s chances of clinching a post-Brexit trade deal with the US.
Speaking today, Mr Biden said: “I want to make sure we’re going to fight like hell by investing in America first.
“I’m not going to enter any new trade agreement with anybody until we have made major investments here at home and in our workers”.
It is the opposite of former US President Barack Obama’s trade policy which sought to prioritise trade relations with the UK and EU which would give “unfettered access to nearly two-thirds of the global economy”.
These comments come as a heavy blow to Boris Johnson, who has been saving a special spot for a free-trade deal with the US in the post-Brexit trade policy.
Reacting to the news, James Watson, Senior Economist at Oxford Economics, said Mr Biden is not a “pure free-trader”.
He added: “Joe Biden’s trade policy promises a more multilateral, but still protectionist, approach.
“We expect Biden’s trade policy to represent a break with the last four years but not a return to the pre-2016 free trade agenda.”
Mr Watson pointed out the future president will, however, seek to “repair ties with traditional allies, particularly in Europe”, which could potentially mean scrapping steel and aluminium tariffs which were imposed under Donald Trump’s presidency.
He continued: “A renewed multilateral approach to trade will mean an end to scattergun tariff threats against allies, as well as some outright tariff cuts that will benefit US industry.”
The trade deal talks between the UK and the US have been ongoing since May this year, but Britain cannot open formal trade talks with Mr Biden before his inauguration in January.
Alongside this, negotiations done under Mr Trump’s presidency might not roll over to the new administration although Britain has opened up diplomatic channels with Mr Biden’s campaign team.
The relationship between Boris Johnson and the president-elect has been rocky so far, with the latter calling the Prime Minister a “physical and emotional clone” of President Trump last year.
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The Irish border question has also been a stumbling block in the relationship with the two as Mr Biden, who is of Irish descent, has warned the Good Friday agreement could not “become a casualty of Brexit”.
The president-elect has made clear any future trade deal between the UK and US is “contingent upon respect for the agreement and preventing the return of a hard border.
It comes as the UK is negotiating a trade deal with the EU with less than four weeks of the transition period remaining.
Mr Barnier reportedly told MEPs the deadline for the talks succeeding is Wednesday.
However, Downing Street said it was prepared to continue talks for “as long as we have time available”.