UK signs trade deal with Canada to prepare for Brexit

Canada is the UK’s eighth-biggest non-EU trading partner. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 22 November 2020

UK signs trade deal with Canada to prepare for Brexit

  • Stopgap agreement allows trade between the two countries to continue
  • The UK has now secured post-Brexit trade deals with 53 countries accounting for $218 billion of bilateral trade

LONDON: The UK signed an interim trade deal with Canada on Saturday, giving it more time to negotiate future trading rules as the British government prepares the country for business life outside the European Union.
The stopgap agreement allows trade between the two countries to continue under the same terms as Canada’s existing treaty with the EU while negotiators begin work on a new bilateral deal between the UK and Canada, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement. Canada is the UK’s eighth-biggest non-EU trading partner.
While Britain formally withdrew from the EU in January, it continues to trade with other countries under the bloc’s umbrella during a transition period scheduled to end Dec. 31. Without a series of new bilateral agreements, trade with countries around the world may be hampered by barriers such as tariffs and increased paperwork.
“Our negotiators have been working flat-out to secure trade deals for the UK, and from as early next year we have agreed to start work on a new, bespoke trade deal with Canada that will go even further in meeting the needs of our economy,” Johnson said.
Johnson’s government says the ability to strike free trade agreements with countries around the world is one of the main benefits of leaving the EU. It is banking on increased trade with countries such as the United States and India to offset any negative impact from severing ties with the EU, which accounted for 47 percent of Britain’s overall trade last year.
Britain ships goods ranging from electric cars to sparkling wine to Canada, and imports products such as salmon and maple syrup from the Commonwealth country that also recognizes Queen Elizabeth II as head of state.
The deal with Canada locks in existing trading rules that cover $27 billion of trade between the two countries, or about 1.5 percent of the UK’s total trade in goods and services last year.
The UK has now secured post-Brexit trade deals with 53 countries accounting for $218 billion of bilateral trade, the government said. That’s less than 12 percent of the about $1.9 trillion of trade Britain recorded last year.
Britain has yet to strike a deal with the European Union on post-Brexit trading rules. Both sides have warned there could be a no-deal end to the transition period next month unless the two sides can soon bridge their remaining differences on fishing, state aid for industry and the resolution of future disputes.
Without an agreement on future relations between Britain and the EU, trade between the two entities would be carried out under World Trade Organization terms.
Johnson’s government says this type of relationship wouldn’t hamper trade, but opponents warn that tariffs would increase prices for British consumers and border checks would lead to shortages of some goods.


US sanctions Chinese and Russian firms over Iran trade

Updated 29 November 2020

US sanctions Chinese and Russian firms over Iran trade

  • Four companies accused of ‘transferring sensitive technology and items’ to missile program

LONDON: The US has slapped economic sanctions on four Chinese and Russian companies that Washington claims helped to support Iran’s missile program.

The four were accused of “transferring sensitive technology and items to Iran’s missile program” and will be subject to restrictions on US government aid and their exports for two years, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.

The sanctions, imposed on Wednesday, were against two Chinese-based companies, Chengdu Best New Materials and Zibo Elim Trade, as well as Russia’s Nilco Group and joint stock company Elecon.

“These measures are part of our response to Iran’s malign activities,” said Pompeo. “These determinations underscore the continuing need for all countries to remain vigilant to efforts by Iran to advance its missile program. We will continue to work to impede Iran’s missile development efforts and use our sanctions authorities to spotlight the foreign suppliers, such as these entities in the PRC and Russia, that provide missile-related materials and technology to Iran.”

The Trump administration has ramped up sanctions on Tehran after withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018.

Earlier this week, Pompeo met Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah, when the campaign of pressure on the Iranian regime was also discussed.

“I want to thank Kuwait for its support of the maximum pressure campaign. Together, we are denying Tehran money, resources, wealth, weapons with which they would be able to commit terror acts all across the region,” he said.

It is not yet clear how the incoming administration of Joe Biden will deal with Tehran and whether it wants to revive the nuclear deal which would be key reviving the country’s battered economy. The Iranian rial has lost about half of its value this year against the dollar, fueling inflation and deepening the damage to the economy.

Iran’s economy would grow as much as 4.4 percent next year if sanctions were lifted, the Institute of International Finance (IIF) said last week. 

The economy is expected to contract by about 6.1 percent in 2020 according to IIF estimates.