Trump wants UK National Health Service included in trade negotiations

Donald Trump’s visit to the UK was always going to be controversial. He has strongly supported Brexit, something that is dividing the UK. But Trump has upped the ante – he says that when US-UK trade takes start after Brexit (if it ever happens) he wants the UK National Health Service to be opened up to US companies.

Fortune: There’s One Subject in the U.K. That’s as Toxic as Brexit. Trump Just Waded Into It

Once, advocates of the U.K.’s departure from the European Union argued that Brexit would mean more government funding for the country’s National Health Service, or NHS.

Now, President Donald Trump has confirmed the opposite: in trade talks between the U.S. and U.K., which will take place once Brexit has gone into effect, the U.S. wants the U.K. to open up the cherished British public health system to American companies.

“I think everything with a trade deal is on the table… NHS and anything else, a lot more than that,” Trump said at a joint press conference with Prime Minister Theresa May on Tuesday, on the second day of his state visit.

The president was responding to a question about whether he agreed with the U.S ambassador to the U.K., Woody Johnson, who said Sunday that he assumed the NHS “would be on the table” in the imminent trade talks, as the negotiations would account for the entire British economy. And his response has already elicited fury among leading politicians from across the British political spectrum.

The public nature of the NHS, which has been free to use for seven decades, is practically seen as sacred in the U.K., and attempts to change that status are politically toxic. A degree of privatization has been taking place in recent years, but NHS bosses want to reverse the process by squeezing out local for-profit contractors such as Virgin Care and Care U.K.

Further opening up the NHS to American contractors would therefore be an explosive political development. The U.S. ambassador’s comment prompted British Health Secretary Matt Hancock—one of the contenders for May’s job, as she is about to step down—to defend the health service in unequivocal terms.

However it’s hard to see much progress being made on US-UK trade talks at this stage. Brexit looks to be far from resolved, and the Prime Minister who Trump is meeting with, Theresa May, is soon stepping down. The NHS is likely to now feature in the contest for leadership of the Conservative party and the country.

RNZ: Trump praises ‘extraordinary’ US-UK alliance on state visit

US President Donald Trump has said the US and UK have the “greatest alliance the world has ever known”.

That’s what you would expect when the current leaders of the US and UK are the greatest the world has ever known.

The US president met Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage at the US ambassador’s residence, Winfield House. Mr Farage tweeted that it was a “good meeting” and Mr Trump “really believes in Brexit”.

Mr Trump also said he turned down a meeting with Jeremy Corbyn, who addressed protesters in Westminster. Mr Trump said Mr Corbyn was a “negative force”. “I really don’t like critics as much as I like and respect people who get things done,” he said.

Mrs May said the scope of trade talks had to be agreed by both countries.

Asked if the NHS would be included in post-Brexit trade talks, Mr Trump said “everything is on the table”.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock was among several Conservative leadership candidates hoping to replace Theresa May who said they would not allow the NHS to become part of any trade talks. “Not on my watch,” he tweeted.

Perhaps the US will play a Trump card – impose tariffs on the UK unless they hand their health system over to US companies.

EU to start trade talks with New Zealand, Australia

The European Union has announced it will open trade talks with new Zealand and Australia in June.

Reuters: EU agrees to start Australia, New Zealand trade talks

European Union countries cleared the way on Tuesday for the bloc to begin free trade talks with Australia and New Zealand in a drive to forge new alliances as trade tensions with the United States increase.

The European Commission, which negotiates on behalf of the 28 EU members, said EU trade chief Cecilia Malmstrom would visit both countries to open talks in June before negotiators convene in Brussels in July for a first round of discussions.

The EU forecasts that ambitious and comprehensive agreements could boost its exports to the two countries by a third in the long term, although there are caveats about opening up EU markets to farm produce such as butter and beef.

The bloc is the third largest trade partner of both Australia and New Zealand.

Trade Minister David Parker: EU and New Zealand to start free trade talks

A free trade deal between New Zealand and the European Union (EU) has taken a major step forward with the announcement overnight that the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council has approved its negotiating mandate.

Trade and Export Growth Minister David Parker has welcomed the news, saying it opens the way for a free trade deal with one of the largest economies in the world that will boost jobs and incomes.

“Credit must go to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern whose strong advocacy for New Zealand’s interests during her recent trip to Europe helped tip the balance,” David Parker said.

“It is also an endorsement of our strong backing for the talks as the next priority on our extensive free trade agenda, that includes the CPTPP, the Pacific Alliance and RCEP.

“These negotiations offer significant economic gains for New Zealand and the EU. They are an example of like-minded countries working together at a time when the world faces a rising tide of protectionism,” David Parker said.

“The EU is our third largest trading partner, with two-way trade worth more than $20 billion. Even excluding the UK, our trade with the EU is worth about $16 billion annually.

“Our recently-announced inclusive and progressive Trade for All agenda aims to benefit all citizens – an approach in line with the EU.

“At the start of negotiations, we’ll be releasing a package of information outlining our negotiating priorities for this agreement and how we will be engaging with New Zealanders as negotiations progress,” David Parker said.

A good step in the right direction with the EU on trade, but with 28 countries involved it will take some time to negotiate and approve, if successful.

Russian trade talks suspended indefinitely

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced – late on Friday – that the Government has suspended trade talks with Russia, and had she didn’t know when or if they would be started again. Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Peters has agreed with the suspension.

Stuff – PM: ‘The situation has changed’ – trade talks with Russia put on ice

The Government has suspended efforts to restart negotiations for a free trade deal with Russia.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says “the situation has changed” and both her and Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters were agreed that any trade talks that had restarted would now be suspended again.

Ardern said she didn’t know when, or if, the Government would be in a position to restart those talks.

The commitment towards an FTA with the Russia-Belarus-Kazakhstan customs union is included in NZ First’s coalition agreement with Labour.

The change of direction comes after months of Peters being clear on his plans to work towards a FTA with Russia.

Just yesterday via RNZ – Russia talks won’t hinder EU trade deal – Peters

Foreign Minister Winston Peters says he has had no indication that New Zealand’s pursuit of a free trade deal with Russia would hinder ongoing negotiations with the European Union.

Mr Peters said there was no indication from the European Union a deal with Russia would compromise the talks with the EU, which have been ongoing since 2015.

“And I would not expect them to make a comment like that, I know that we’ll taking up conversations with them in a matter of weeks.”

There was a conversation of “some length” with the the Russian foreign ministry about a trade deal at the East Asia Summit in the Philippines last November, Mr Peters said.

It was too early to say how the attempted poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury, England, could affect the relationship between New Zealand and Russia, and any trade talks, he said.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said today there was “no alternative conclusion” than to believe Russia was “culpable” for the attempted murders.

The incident had “somewhat complicated” the issue of a trade deal, Mr Peters said.

“However, other past events saw the conversations continue so I don’t at this point in time see it as our number one priority.”

Complicated enough that a day later Ardern has ruled out any continuation of conversations with Russia on trade.