(CNN) – Theresa May is in the United States, trying to rekindle the famed “special relationship” between the U.S. and the U.K.
She is in Philadelphia, where she is meeting with republican leaders. Then on Friday she becomes the first foreign leader to visit President Trump, and one issue will be right at the top of the agenda, trade.
Just one week on the job and President Trump is already promising a complete reversal of U.S. trade policy. Protectionism, his guiding mantra, the recovery of American jobs.
A complete shake up of more than half a century’s efforts to liberalize global trade and facilitate the movement of goods between states and trading blocs.
Trump said, “It’s going to be only America first, America first.”
On Friday, he’ll meet with Britain’s Theresa May, who’s looking to refashion the special relationship, now that she’s taking Britain out of the European Union.
So how will America first marry up with her vision of a ‘global Britain’?
Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, said “We want to get out into the wider world to trade and do business all around the globe.”
May can’t sign any new trade deals until Britain leaves the E.U., and she needs to keep the E.U. on side in order to strike the best Brexit deal possible. That means that talk on trade with the U.S. will likely be vague at best.”
Ian Mitchell, senior fellow at the Centre for Global Development, said, “I guess the government is thinking from the perspective of new frictions with the E.U. it would be helpful if it could reduce some of the frictions with the U.S. and other countries and I guess that’s why the U.S. has emerged as an early priority in discussions.”
Frictions like, say, the trade in pharmaceuticals. They’re the UK’s biggest export to the U.S., worth 9.7 billion dollars in 2015.
But President Trump has his own thoughts on medicines, and he wants them homemade, saying, “We have to get our drug industry coming back. Our drug industry has been disastrous.”
So where will that leave Theresa May, torn between the U.S. on the one side, the E.U. on the other. Future exports in limbo as the global trading juggernaut shifts gears.
Proximity matters less than it used to, but it still matters. The E.U. is Britain’s closest market and it is likely it will likely remain its most important market however the Brexit negotiations go.”
Any trade deal with the U.S. will also take a long time to negotiate, at least two or three years after Britain Brexit’s.
So however much president trump says he’d like a deal to happen quickly, unless he wins a second term he may not be around to see it through.