Trade minister Liz Truss has said she will make it her top priority to de-escalate trade disputes over steel and aircraft subsidies with the United States.
Speaking at this year’s virtual Davos summit, Truss said countries must “resist protectionism”, and that there should not be tariffs between the UK, the EU and the US.
“On the top of my priority list is first of all de-escalating some of the immediate trade tensions, for example the steel dispute [and] the Airbus-Boeing dispute,” said Truss.
“We shouldn’t be in a position where the UK, the EU and the US have tariffs on each other. We need to work together,” she added.
The Trump administration put tariffs on a range of UK goods as it adopted more protectionist policies.
Truss also said China had contributed to an erosion of the trust in the global trade system: “Some of the behaviour by China on areas like forced technology transfer, subsidies by state-owned enterprises, and also IP (Intellectual Property) violations have led to some of the mistrust in the global trading system,” she said.
“People can see things are unfair, that if state-owned enterprises are able to subsidise and able to undermine free enterprise economies, then that can destroy trust in trade.”
Relations between Britain and China have cooled in recent years, from London heavily courting Chinese investment in British infrastructure in 2015 to last year banning telecoms firm Huawei from parts of the UK communications network and tightening rules on foreign investment over national security concerns.
Truss also repeated calls for World Trade Organisation (WTO) reform, saying its paralysed dispute resolution system must be upgraded, the blocks to the appointment of a new head must be removed, and trust restored in its procedures.
“Big countries, small countries, need to understand that they are going be treated fairly under the WTO system, and that the rules will be impartially enforced,” she said.
Truss highlighted that the United States, which under former President Donald Trump blocked the appointment of new WTO judges, had indicated a more open attitude to reform under President Joe Biden who took office earlier this month.