Donald Trump and British Trade

Donald Trump’s election as the 45th President of the United States saw the climax to one of the most bruising US presidential election battles for many years. A campaign interwoven with populist policies on border security and aggressive rhetoric regarding immigration were amongst the numerous incendiary themes to divide the country.

Another of the president-elect’s contentious stances was on trade – which included imposing hefty tariffs on Chinese-made goods if they fail to reform trade relations with the US, and the ending of the Trans-Pacific Partnership – a trade agreement Trump has been heavily critical of.

The Trump campaign’s trade policies resonated in the country’s blue-collar areas such as Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, which have seen many jobs go to foreign competitors over the last few decades. He has defied the Republican Party’s policy by rejecting free trade and backing tariffs to protect the US’ industries from “unfair competition.”

And a great deal of Trump’s attention on trade – as highlighted by his website -focusses on the problems he sees with the USA’s relationship with China, where he feels the current deal is unfairly weighted in China’s favour. There is no mention of the UK in the website’s section on trade.

The protectionist policies laid out by the Trump campaign target the cheap manufactured goods brought into the country which have put American manufacturers out of business. Britain on the other hand provides high-end services, meaning that UK firms shouldn’t fear any new trade-blocking barriers - at least for the time being.

The UK has long liked to think it enjoys a special relationship with the United States - and a big part of that is down to trade. The UK is currently the world’s second biggest exporter of services and the United States takes in more of these than any other country on earth; but the election of a man coming from outside of the traditional political establishment means potential impacts on UK-US policymaking could be forthcoming.

However, there are signs that the UK could be treated differently to other countries. Back in May when Brexit was looming large, Trump, a fervid supporter of Britain’s exit from Europe, said in an interview: “Britain’s been a great ally. They’ve been such a great ally they’ve gone into things they shouldn’t have gone into, for example going into Iraq. With me, they’ll always be treated fantastically.”

He also went on to counter President Obama’s warning that the UK would go to the "back of the queue" when it came to negotiating new trade deals with the USA should an EU exit occur. He said:

“I’m not going to say front of the queue but it wouldn’t make any difference to me whether they were in the EU or not. You would certainly not be back of the queue, that I can tell you.”

The UK’s future trading partnership with the USA will all come down to the extent of Trump’s opposition to free trade, and when the President-Elect officially begins his White House tenure in January, the picture of just how ‘special’ the UK’s relationship with the USA is will become a lot clearer.


Find out more on the potential consequences for British trade and discover an unprecedented level of opportunity at Going Global, which takes place at Olympia London on the 17th and 18th of November 2016.