Liverpool in ‘great position’ to benefit from post-Brexit trade deal, US ambassador says

Published on Business stage: Scaling, Starting, Thinking, Unlocking

Donald Trump’s ambassador to the UK has said Liverpool and its port are in a “great position” to benefit in any post-Brexit trade deal.

During a visit to Merseyside in which he toured Anfield, the Port of Liverpool and St George’s Hall, Woody Johnson described fears over chlorinated chicken as “mumbo jumbo”, also saying the NHS won’t be “on the table” in any post-Brexit trade deal.

The EU currently has strict hygiene standards for poultry when they are alive, while the US washes them with disinfectant, such as chlorine, after they die.

That has led to fears from many in the UK over the quality of agricultural produce from the US.

Mr Johnson, who is known to have a close relationship with president Donald Trump, echoed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s claim earlier this month that such fears are “mumbo jumbo”.

He said:

“I think we have scientifically-based appraisals of what each of us are doing. Our appraisal of US food is that [standards] are the highest in the world.

“We have a very litigious society [in the US], so if it weren’t [the highest], I’m sure we’d hear about it [through] legal opinion and so on.

“I think we can make a deal. We want to protect our environment. Clean air and clean water is just as critical to US farmers and consumers as it is here.

“We all want the best for our kids and grand kids – we really do, [so] we will come up with something that works for both of us.”

Despite previously saying the NHS would be “on the table” in a post-Brexit trade deal, the US ambassador said on Wednesday his country has its own “issues”.

He referred to President Trump saying recently that he wants “nothing to do with” the NHS – and that he “wouldn’t take [it] on a silver platter”.

Mr Johnson said:

“I think the president in a recent interview answered that, and I will go with what he said.

“This is yours. This is your healthcare system. We have got our own healthcare system and issues that we have.

“You are very proud of it, it works extremely well for you and your citizens. So have fun, get it done, and give them what they want.

“I like what the Prime Minister said about building hospitals and hiring more nurses. That’s something we (in the US) have to do as well.”

In terms of Liverpool’s position in a post-Brexit Britain and how the city is viewed state-side, Mr Johnson said:

“It’s in a great position being in this part of the country.

“The infrastructure that’s here to get goods all around the country, I think it’s perfectly positioned.

“You have all of the ingredients for [industries such as] tech and transport in the US to make sure that ships that leave here deliver goods to Canada and the US and Mexico, but also come back fully loaded.

“When we are putting a free trade agreement together and how we want to look at ourselves down the road, free, fair and balanced trade is really the key to success and the key to bring out prosperity for everybody, and it also makes sure that you have got good competition going.

“If there’s competition, you only get better.”

Mr Johnson’s trip to Liverpool involved a visit to Peel Ports’ Port of Liverpool in Seaforth, where he was shown around by commercial director Stephen Carr.

Adding that the UK is “extremely important” to the US, Mr Johnson said:

“You are one of our largest trading partners. We do about $370bn trade a year, and we have got about a trillion invested on each side. A million Brits work for US companies and vice versa, [so] it’s pretty equal.

“You are our most important security partner by far. We are embedded in each others military, intelligence and everything you can think about.

Speaking about Brexit, he added:

“This is really a way to look at our future prosperity in a new and different way. [Brexit is] not a figment of our imagination now – it’s actually happened, it has occurred, so let’s put on a thinking cap. Get all of you young guys figuring out what the future is and what you want.”

On Monday, the government unveiled plans for up to 10 new free ports across the country, with ministers claiming the hubs would create thousands of jobs.

That’s despite Labour leader John McDonnell raising fears the super-rich would use them “to hoard assets and avoid taxes”.

Speaking about the prospects of a freeport – an area where no duty is paid on goods until they enter the full UK market, Mr Carr from Peel Ports said:

“The Liverpool trading relationship with the US goes back centuries.

“A free-trade deal combined with a free port policy will really allow lots of US companies to invest and trade through the port.

“Liberalisation of tariffs and reduction of bureaucracy makes free trade easier. For the Liverpool City Region, that’s about job creation and creating wealth in the years to come.

“So we are really grateful to the ambassador for spending time here today. It puts Liverpool in the shop window for years to come.”

On Liverpool’s post-Brexit future, he added:

“As well as the many risks being documented there are also opportunities.

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