The United States wants to do a trade deal with Britain this year and is prepared to “dedicate a lot of resources” to it, its treasury secretary has said during a trip to London.
Steven Mnuchin said he was “quite optimistic” about striking an agreement during 2020 as he took questions at Chatham House.
Because the UK and US have “similar economies with a big focus on services”, he said any resulting deal could be the start of a “very important relationship”.
He told an audience at the foreign affairs think-tank: “We’ve said that our goal – your goal – is trying to get (this) trade agreement done this year, and I think from a US standpoint we are prepared to dedicate a lot of resources.”
Britain has already indicated it intends to conduct parallel negotiations with Brussels and Washington after it formally leaves the EU at the end of January.
Mr Mnuchin had earlier been at 11 Downing Street for breakfast with Chancellor Sajid Javid, during which the two men were expected to discuss Huawei’s potential involvement in Britain’s 5G infrastructure.
It has been reported that government officials have formally recommended granting Huawei a limited role within the UK’s future 5G system.
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There are concerns that allowing the Chinese company to take part could compromise Britain’s security. Washington has been warning allies not to use its equipment.
Another area of concern for the US is UK plans to tax tech giants.
Mr Javid intends to bring in a 2% levy on the revenues of search engines, social media platforms and online marketplaces which derive value from UK users.
The temporary measure would be discontinued if and when there was an international agreement on how to tax companies such as Google and Facebook.
Mr Mnuchin said the US believed that “any tax that is designed specifically on digital companies is a discriminatory tax”.
He added that such a tax was “not appropriate” and contained “violations to our tax treaties and other issues”.
He continued: “So, we’re working through that and I think we have a good outcome of trying to give some room now in 2020 to continue these discussions.”