LONDON — President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson are seeking to make a symbolic show of unity on the world stage at their first meeting later this month by announcing progress in bilateral trade negotiations ahead of the U.K.’s planned exit from the European Union in October, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday.
The U.S. and U.K. are trying to make headway on trade pacts in the next few months, with hopes of signing an agreement that takes effect the day Britain exits the E.U., the official said. That could take the shape of a series of small trade agreements on individual sectors, such as manufacturing, or a short-term broader deal, with the goal of a permanent comprehensive one to follow, the official said.
Aides to Trump and Johnson are laying the groundwork for an announcement on the issue when they meet on the sidelines of the G7 summit in France in two weeks. Such a statement could outline a roadmap for negotiations and how the two countries envision their future trade ties, the official said.
The timing of it — during the G7 and at their first meeting — would be intended to demonstrate a united front between the U.S. and U.K as Trump and Johnson gather with European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron.
Johnson, who was elected prime minister last month, has promised the U.K. will leave the EU by October 31. The deadline has set off a scramble within the Trump administration to prepare for the move on a multitude of fronts, including security and trade.
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton was in London Monday and Tuesday for discussions with British officials about what Brexit means for trade and security ties between the two allies. Bolton met with U.K. Trade Secretary Liz Truss on Tuesday to discuss a possible roadmap.
The British government has been more cautious about characterizing talks with U.S. officials on trade, pointing to E.U. rules that preclude members from signing bilateral trade agreements while part of the European bloc.
But the senior Trump administration official dismissed those rules and took a different view, saying the U.S. would not be in violation by negotiating or signing a trade agreement with the U.S. because everyone knows they’re leaving the E.U.
The official added that the U.S. and U.K. could reach an agreement on trade that takes effect Nov 1, and that the Johnson administration is open to the idea.