US rejects invite for face-to-face talks on UK steel dispute – POLITICO

LONDON – The United Kingdom has been dealt a blow after Washington declined an invitation to discuss a major trade dispute in person this month.

US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo will not come to London in the next two weeks to negotiate facilities for Britain to punish tariffs on steel and aluminum.

Britain’s International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan made the call last month during a trip to Washington aimed at resolving the issue.

There are hopes in the UK Department of Commerce that a virtual meeting will take place instead – which could take place as soon as next week. But the United States has not yet confirmed the plan.

A US trade spokesperson said: “The administration looks forward to taking this matter up when the time is right.” “While Secretary Raimundo appreciates the kind invitation, she is not in a position to travel in person to London at this time.”

The UK’s opposition Labor Party has seized on the rejection of personal talks in the coming weeks. “This is bitterly disappointing news for UK steel and aluminum manufacturers and for the many jobs, livelihoods and businesses that depend on the industry,” said Nick Thomas Symonds, Shadow’s international trade secretary.

“The Labor Party has been calling on the Prime Minister to intervene personally with the President of the United States and to show the leadership this issue requires…this government needs to take this issue with the seriousness that our societies deserve, relying on the special relationship with the United States.”

A UK Department of Trade official said the transition to the COVID pandemic: “Given the current uncertainty around the Omicron variant, it is understandable that Foreign Ministers are unable to commit to international travel for in-person meetings.”

The official said that the call to discuss steel tariffs included the option of “virtual means”, and added, “We maintain the urgent need to make progress on this issue to raise the possibility of imposing more retaliatory tariffs on American goods.”

“We look forward to hypothetical discussions with the United States,” a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson added.

In remarks on Wednesday, US Trade Representative Catherine Taye tried to reassure her counterparts in London that talks would indeed take place – but not yet.

She told reporters that the reason the US had a deal with the EU and not the UK was a “matter of pragmatism” and that “the UK is on our minds a lot, and I’m sure we’ll take that up when the time is right.”

Some in London believe the US is stalling on the issue until the Brexit dispute between the UK and the EU is resolved. He believes the rift in Washington is jeopardizing peace in Northern Ireland.

Esther Weber contributed reporting.

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