Editor’s Note: George Holding, a Republican, is a Congressman from North Carolina who serves on the House Ways and Means Committee and is the ranking member of the British American Parliamentary Group and co-chair of the Congressional UK Caucus. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own.
Yesterday the UK Speaker of the House, John Bercow, blocked a vote on the Brexit deal agreed upon by negotiators for the UK and EU last week. The deal would enable Great Britain to break with Brussels at the end of this month. If the deal fails to garner sufficient backing in Parliament, Brexit will likely be delayed yet again, this time probably until early 2020.
Amid the seemingly endless turmoil, it’s easy to lose sight of the light at the end of the tunnel.
Britain’s departure from the EU will create a host of extraordinary opportunities. Among them — a chance to deepen and expand economic ties between the United States and the UK.
For decades, the EU’s heavy regulatory hand has stifled Britain’s economy and hampered trade with the United States. Differing regulatory and legal standards significantly constrain trade in financial services, telecommunications, motor vehicles and professional services. And US farm products face tariffs averaging 11%.
But that could soon change.
If the UK regains control over its national trade policy when it severs ties with the EU, we will have an opportunity to forge a comprehensive US-UK free trade agreement.
As two of the most innovative countries in the world, we can write new rules on digital trade that will ensure the free flow of data across borders, remove restrictions on e-commerce and exempt digital products from custom duties. Opening up the digital ecosystem will incentivize billions of dollars in new investment, giving us a leg up in the race to develop the transformative technologies of the future, such as artificial intelligence, internet of things and quantum computing.
We can eliminate virtually all tariffs and expand market access for thousands of products. This will provide businesses with more export opportunities and lower prices for consumers.
We can reduce the costs and compliance burdens imposed upon businesses of all sizes across nearly every industry. And we can incentivize billions more in cross-border investment by facilitating deeper integration of our financial services markets.
For American businesses operating in Great Britain, these changes will go a long way toward offsetting any potential economic repercussions from reduced access to EU markets.
These are just a few of the many opportunities that lie ahead. When added up, the economic case is indisputable. A trans-Atlantic trade pact would create jobs, foster innovation, spur economic growth and unleash billions of dollars in investment on both sides of the Atlantic.
It could also have a profound impact on the trajectory of the global economy. Years of exploitation by China, along with a host of other factors, have undermined the global economic order and degraded public support for international trade liberalization.
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A robust US-UK deal could reverse this trend and revive confidence in free trade.
As two highly advanced, free-market economies — with strong traditions of entrepreneurship and respect for the rule of law — we can craft a deal that would raise the paradigm of international commerce and set a new standard for free, fair and reciprocal trade.
Moving forward, this deal can serve as a template for future bilateral agreements with other nations throughout the world.
While the potential here is enormous, a deal is far from a sure thing. Formal negotiations cannot begin until the UK leaves the EU — a task that has proven to be particularly challenging.
Still, there is plenty to be excited about. Rarely do we have an opportunity to enter into a bilateral trade deal with a nation so fundamentally similar and intertwined with our own. Together, we can unleash our economic potential and usher in a new era of global trade — one grounded in the principles of fairness, competition and reciprocity.
As we wait for Brexit to unfold, Republicans and Democrats in Congress should come together and send a clear message that the United States is open for business and ready to get to work. Doing so will ease uncertainty on both sides of the Atlantic and lay a foundation for a robust and expeditious US-UK free trade deal in the very near future.