US, UK launch post-Brexit trade negotiations amid coronavirus

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Negotiators for the U.S. and the U.K. opened talks for a new trade agreement via teleconference Tuesday, despite postponements caused by the coronavirus pandemic, in hopes of establishing a post-Brexit economic boost.

U.K. International Trade Secretary Liz Truss and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer began a two-week round of negotiations, with about 100 officials involved on either side.

"We want to strike an ambitious deal that opens up new opportunities for our businesses, brings in more investment and creates better jobs for people across the whole of the country," Truss said.

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"The prime minister has been clear that we champion free trade and this deal will make it even easier to do business with our friends across the pond," she added.

Britain departed from the European Union on Jan. 31 after almost half a century of membership and now must forge a new trade relationship with the 27-nation bloc and with other countries around the world.

Skeptics worry that a U.S.-U.K. deal could force Britain to accept looser U.S. food and environmental standards, a claim Prime Minister Boris Johnson denies will happen.

Britain and the United States promised to work at “an accelerated pace” to strike a deal that would help both nations "bounce back" from the crippling effects of COVID-19.

Total two-way trade between the two countries amounts to $269 billion a year. The U.S. generally runs a trade surplus with the U.K., generating a nearly $19 billion surplus in 2018.

Airplanes and precious metals were the top export items from the U.S. to the U.K. while vehicles and machinery led the way on the products shipped to the U.S.

The British government attaches great symbolic and political importance to securing a free trade agreement with the U.S., though the economic benefit would be relatively modest. It said in March that eliminating tariffs on trans-Atlantic trade in goods would increase the size of the U.K. economy by only 0.16 percent over the next 15 years.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.