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In UK, Pence Pushes For Trade Deal

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Vice President Mike Pence on Sept. 5 in London made the case for a post-Brexit U.S.-United Kingdom trade agreement, asserting that such a deal could triple or quadruple bilateral trade.

The U.K. was the seventh-largest U.S. trading partner in 2018, when the U.S. exported $66.3 billion worth of goods to the country and imported $60.8 billion worth of goods from the nation, according to Census Bureau statistics.

"We believe a free trade agreement between the United States and the United Kingdom could increase trade between our two countries three or four times," Pence said in remarks during the Lord Mayor's International Trade Dinner.

The U.S. is working to craft a U.S.-U.K. trade agreement, and Pence on Sept. 5 delivered a message from President Donald Trump to U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the U.S. is "ready, willing and able" to negotiate an agreement immediately when Brexit takes effect, Pence said.

"When you're ready, we'll be ready," Pence said.

Conservatives lost their majority in the U.K. Parliament on Sept. 4 and that could lay the groundwork for passage of a bill to prevent Britain from leaving the European Union with no deal on Oct. 31. That is the date the U.K. is scheduled to exit the EU, which could happen without a negotiated agreement between London and Brussels if U.K. lawmakers don't settle on a Brexit approach.

The parliamentary defeat of conservatives also could bring several other outcomes, including further postponement of Brexit.

Any bilateral trade negotiation will likely include friction around certain topics.

Johnson told reporters that the U.K. will "make sure that we do everything to increase free trade," but noted that the U.K.'s National Health Service (NHS) won't be on the table during any negotiation and that the U.K. is "not too keen on that chlorinated chicken," a reference to a U.S. process of treating chicken carcasses to clean them of bacteria like salmonella and E. coli.

Trump suggested in June that NHS would be on the table during any negotiation, a day before walking back his comments and saying that he doesn't consider NHS to be part of trade.

During his speech, Pence said the two countries will likely have "some pretty tough discussions over chlorinated chicken," drawing laughter from the audience.

During their meeting on Sept. 5, Pence and Johnson recognized the establishment of the Special Relationship Economic Working Group, announced by Trump and Johnson during the G7 summit in France in August, as a productive step in aligning regulatory frameworks and paving the way for a bilateral trade deal, the White House said in a statement.

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