"Regulatory barriers likely to be contentious and most significant obstacles to UK-US trade"

Standards and technical regulations are likely to be the most significant—and potentially contentious—obstacles to a UK-US trade deal according leading trade experts.

Published today the latest briefing paper by the UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO) at the University of Sussex states the UK faces a challenge in whether it stays with EU regulation, moves towards the US approach or tries a pick-and-mix approach of its own.

The research, conducted in conjunction with trade experts from the Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business and Walsh School of Foreign Service, shows initial public support is likely to favour signing a trade deal. However, the US and UK trade experts state the UK government should not assume its public will be happy to admit more GMO foods, hormone-treated meat, and other products currently restricted or banned.

The study, which explores public support for, the benefits of, and the key obstacles to a transatlantic agreement, is entitled, The Future of US-UK Trade: What case for a bilateral trade agreement?. It comes ahead of the meeting between US President Donald Trump and UK Prime Minister Theresa May this Friday. Key findings include:

  • The extent of public support for a US-UK trade agreement, but also worries about existing trade agreements and concerns about the kind of regulatory framework that might be pursued.
  • The need to deal with the barriers to trade in services to realise clear economic benefits.
  • The extent of the challenges posed by standards and technical regulations. The UK’s post-Brexit regulatory regime risks being pulled in different directions by the EU and the US.  A solution will depend on the UK’s capacity to navigate the demands of its two major trading partners.
  • A need to settle the UK’s position in the multilateral trading system before meaningful and substantive negotiations with the US can commence.

Rorden Wilkinson, Professor of Global Political Economy and Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sussex, commented: “In the short term, the UK’s capacity to negotiate a mutually beneficial trade deal with the US is likely to be limited. Given the regulatory obstacles ahead and the likely impact they may have on public support, this might not be a bad thing.  The best the two governments can probably hope for is a limited agreement underlining their desire to work together.”

Marc Busch, Karl F. Landegger Professor of International Business Diplomacy at Georgetown University, added: “Amidst the tensions over Trump's Section 232 and Section 301 tariffs, and the increasingly complex questions about Brexit, lies the promise of a US-UK free trade deal. Our group of scholars sees the challenges that lie ahead, yet recognises the opportunity as an important one, not just for Washington and London, but for the transatlantic trade relationship more generally.”




 Notes to editors

To arrange interviews with the academics involved in the study please contact the press office at University of Sussex by emailing press@sussex.ac.uk or Molly Fleeenor, Assistant Director of Communications, Georgetown University: molly.fleenor@geroetown.edu

About the authors

Marc Busch, Karl F. Landegger Professor of International Business Diplomacy; J. Bradford Jensen, McCrane/Shaker Chair in International Business; Rodney D. Ludema, Professor of Economics; Anna Maria Mayda Associate Professor of Economics; Pietra Rivoli, Vice Dean and Professor; and Stephen Weymouth, Assistant Professor – Georgetown University. Michael Gasiorek, Senior Lecturer in Economics; Peter Holmes, Reader in Economics; Emily Lydgate, Lecturer in Law; Jim Rollo, Emeritus Professor of European Economics; Rorden Wilkinson, Professor of Global Political Economy and Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor; and L. Alan Winters, Professor of Economics and Director of the UK Trade Policy Observatory – University of Sussex.

About the UK Trade Policy Observatory: The UK Trade Policy Observatory (UKTPO), a partnership between the University of Sussex and Chatham House, is an independent expert group that initiates, comments on and analyses trade policy proposals for the UK and trains British policy makers, negotiators and other interested parties through tailored training packages. Created in June 2016, the UKTPO is committed to engaging with a wide variety of stakeholders to ensure that the UK’s international trading environment is reconstructed in a manner that benefits all in Britain and is fair to Britain, the EU and the world.

About the University of Sussex: The University of Sussex was the first of the new wave of UK universities founded in the 1960s, receiving its Royal Charter in August 1961. It is among the leading research universities in the UK, with 98 per cent of its research rated as world leading, internationally excellent or internationally recognised (REF 2014).

About Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business

Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, the premier destination for global business education, provides a transformational education through classroom and experiential learning, preparing students to graduate as principled leaders in service to business and society. Through numerous centers, initiatives, and partnerships, Georgetown McDonough seeks to create a meaningful impact on business practice through both research and teaching. All academic programs prepare students to be “global ready” by providing a global perspective, woven through the undergraduate and graduate curriculum in a way that is unique to Washington, D.C. – the nexus of world business and policy – and to Georgetown University’s connections to global partner organizations and a world-wide alumni network. Founded in 1957, Georgetown McDonough is home to some 1,400 undergraduates, 1,000 MBA students, and 1,200 participants in executive degree or custom programs. Learn more at http://msb.georgetown.edu. Follow us on Twitter: @msbgu.

About Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service

The Walsh School of Foreign Service (SFS), founded in 1919, is a premier school of international affairs. At Georgetown’s Washington, D.C., and Qatar campuses, SFS provides a rigorous education grounded in both theory and practice while instilling the Jesuit values of service. SFS hosts top-ranked undergraduate and graduate studies which feature an interdisciplinary core curriculum that focuses on international affairs, government, economics, history, theology, philosophy, geography, and languages. The SFS is one of the world’s leading academic and research institutions, led by a faculty of both scholars and practitioners. SFS faculty are scholars in political science, economics, history, and cultural studies, as well as professionals with backgrounds in business, government, and the nonprofit sector. In the study of international affairs, Georgetown’s Jesuit values inspires SFS students to be principled, just practitioners of diplomacy. Students apply these values of service internationally across the public, private, and academic sectors in pursuit of a better world.

Media Contacts:

University of Sussex 

Communications and External Affairs

T +44 (0)1273 678888



Molly Fleenor

Assistant Director of Communications

Georgetown University McDonough School of Business

+1 202-687-5254


By: Lynsey Ford
Last updated: Thursday, 12 July 2018