U.K. Treasury Chief Confident on Reaching Trade Pact With U.S.

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04/21/2017 | 01:52 pm

By Jason Douglas

WASHINGTON -- U.K. Treasury chief Philip Hammond said Friday he is confident the U.K. and the U.S. can strike a wide-ranging free-trade accord once Britain has left the European Union.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the spring meetings of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in Washington, Mr. Hammond said there is "strong political momentum" in both the U.S. and U.K. to reach such a deal, though he acknowledged the U.K. can't formally agree to trade deals as long as it remains an EU member.

"As soon as we are able to we will begin preliminary discussions with the U.S." on a trade accord, Mr. Hammond said, adding Britain would aim for a "comprehensive" agreement covering both goods and services.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May on Wednesday won parliament's backing to hold a national election in Britain on June 8. Mr. Hammond said calling a snap poll was "the right thing to do" as it will strengthen the U.K.'s hand in coming exit talks with Brussels.

He said that the ruling Conservatives' election manifesto will continue to put emphasis on reducing Britain's budget deficit. But Mr. Hammond hinted that he may seek more flexibility in meeting current deficit-reduction goals, saying existing commitments from the party's 2015 election manifesto are too restrictive.

Write to Jason Douglas at [email protected]

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