Drop the secrecy around US trade deal talks, Unite demands

Government ministers must drop the secrecy around their attempts to secure a trade deal with the United States, Unite has demanded.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the apparent rush by international trade secretary Liam Fox, who is travelling to the US today (24 July) according to The Guardian, to cobble together a deal with Donald Trump’s administration, was being done in the interests of global big business and not ordinary people.

The British Chambers of Commerce joined Unite in warning the government against rushed free-trade deals, which it said could put UK firms at risk of predatory takeovers by US competitors.

Len McCluskey said: “It is unclear what Liam Fox plans to discuss. Are our employment rights, safety standards and even our NHS being traded away by a Tory government desperate to secure a trade partner for life outside the European Union? Will there be secret investor protection courts is another key issue?

“Unless the government drops the secrecy and lets the public in on the terms of any trade discussions and prospective deal, then we remain deeply worried that what will emerge from the discussions with the president’s team will be music to the ears of global big business but absolutely not be in the interests of ordinary people.”

Frances O’Grady, TUC general secretary, writing in the Huffington Post, said the British public needed to know what exactly Mr Fox was after “except air miles and a publicity stunt”.

She described his claim that Britain’s trade with the European Union could be replaced and “improved on” by enhanced deals with the US and other non-EU countries as a “dangerous pipe dream”.

“Despite the enormous trade flows between our two countries, it’s unlikely that the US could come close to replacing a significant proportion of the UK’s current trade with the rest of Europe, which is half of all UK trade.”

Liam Fox also told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that a few years of Brexit uncertainty was “not a huge deal”.

“The arrogance of his position is simply astonishing,” Len McCluskey said.