The UK could seal its first bilateral free trade deal before 2020 if it pursues the right countries

 
Courtney Goldsmith
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Theresa May has already talked trade with the US President
Theresa May has already talked trade with the US President (Source: Getty)

Britain could sign off on its first bilateral free trade deal before 2020 if the government prioritises negotiations with South Korea, the US and Brazil, a new report suggests.

The UK government should prioritise pursuing trade deals with specific countries based on the potential economic value it would bring to the UK economy as well as the speed and ease of the deal, economics consultancy group WPI Economics found.

South Korea is the country that offers the most potential, WPI found in its Trade Prospects Index.

Top countries in the Trade Prospectus Index
1. South Korea
2. United States
3. Brazil
4. China
5. Australia

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"Our research shows that South Korea must be at the very front of the queue," Matthew Oakley, director of WPI Economics and a former Treasury official, said.

"It has already expressed a willingness to cut a deal with the UK. It has already negotiated a free trade deal with the EU so has a foundation to work off. It imports increasing amounts of business and financial services. And it has a track record of agreeing bilateral deals in a relatively short period of time," he explained.

WPI warned the civil service could "be stretched to breaking point" if the Department of International Trade doesn't prioritise countries that offer the UK the most valuable trade deals.

However, if they do, Oakley said it would be possible for the UK to seal a bilateral deal with a non-EU country before the next general election.

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