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US expects UK trade deal ‘this year’: Mnuchin

(AFP)

US Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday said a post-Brexit trade deal between the United States and Britain was a top priority and he expected such an agreement by the end of the year.

The top US economic official made his comments before heading to London to lay out ways the two countries could reach a quick accord after the UK leaves the EU on January 31.

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Responding to Mnuchin’s remarks, the spokesman for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson declined to offer a timetable.

“Both sides have been clear in public that they want to agree an ambitious free trade agreement as quickly as possible,” the spokesman said.

“Once we have left the EU in just over a week’s time we’ll be free to start having discussions with countries around the world including the US,” he added.

Mnuchin’s UK counterpart, Sajid Javid, will embark on trade talks with both the EU and the US, in the hope of sparing the British economy any short or medium-term shocks of Brexit.

Javid told the US “they wanted to accomplish both these deals in 2020. That’s obviously an aggressive timeline,” Mnuchin said on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

A UK-US deal “is an absolute priority for President (Donald) Trump and we expect to complete that with them this year, which we think will be great for them and great for us,” he added.

US Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross insisted the UK and US would have an easier time striking the deal than the EU, given close existing ties.

“There are far fewer issues between the UK and US than there are between either of us and the EU because our economies are both very similar,” Ross said.

Stressing financial services, Ross underlined “there’s already a pretty high degree of integration and coordination.”

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