Powerful lobbyists are pressing Donald Trump to play hard ball over the NHS, food quality and consumer rights during talks for a US-UK trade deal, it can be revealed.
The US department of trade asked American industry what the president should extract from a post-Brexit Britain.
The office said it was “seeking public comments on a proposed US-UK Trade Agreement, including US interests and priorities, in order to develop US negotiating positions”.
Organisations were invited to submit their responses in writing or verbally at a public hearing – and the responses were startling.
Lobbyists for big firms made more than 130 demands, which include:
Changing how NHS chiefs buy drugs to suit big US pharmaceutical companies
Britain scraps its safety-first approach to safety and food standards
Law changes that would allow foreign companies to sue the British state
Removal of protections for traditional British products.
It comes as wrangling over Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement reaches its final stages and focus begins to shift to the future relationship the UK will have with the EU and other trading nations.
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox has previously said “nothing is completely off the table” when it comes to talks with the US.
But Labour MP Ian Murray, a leading campaigner for the pro-second EU referendum group People’s Vote, said: “These plans would effectively turn Britain into an economic colony of the United States and must be resisted.”
Here, HuffPost UK has compiled a list of just 30 US lobbyist demands made to the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
1) Scrap the safety-first approach to food quality and standards
Firms want US negotiators to force Britain to ditch the “precautionary principle” when it comes to food safety standards, multiple submissions to the US government’s consultation demanded.
Lobbyists for the North America Export Grain Association and National Grain and Feed Association, for example, said “the EU’s inappropriate use of the ‘precautionary principle’ when addressing regulatory measures is a challenge”.
They added that the two groups “view a trade agreement with the UK as an opportunity for US negotiators to seek the resolution of several non-tariff trade barriers stemming from the EU’s protectionist use of precaution that have plagued US-EU bilateral trade”.
2) Weaken data protection for consumers
Britain has strict regulations which protect the privacy of data and stop it from being sold to third parties.
Adopting the EU-wide GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) rules last year made companies more accountable for data protection, a move that is credited with giving people more control over their data.
But, in their submission, the American Property Casualty Insurance
Association said it was made clear some firms see UK data rules as a barrier.
It reads: “US insurers have noted that compliance with data regulations in the UK, particularly with regard to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is overly burdensome.
“We suggest that the UK-US negotiations be used to reduce that burden.”
3) Allow the sale of hormone-riddled beef
Unlike in the US, many hormones are banned in the UK as they are deemed harmful.
The National Cattleman’s Beef Association have demanded that US standards be recognised in Britain, in a move which could pave the way for hormone-riddled meats being sold to British consumers.
They asked for “mutual recognition of equivalence in safety standards” in their submission.
4) Slash British cattle farming subsidies
The National Cattleman’s Beef Association also spelled out exactly what the US farming industry wants from a UK-US trade deal: an to beef subsidies in the UK.
British farmers are heavily reliant on government cash so this would threaten to put them out of business.
US beef farming, which has access to vast land resources and operates on lower standards, would have a distinct advantage were subsidies cut.
The association said a “successful US-UK trade agreement must include [...] elimination of beef subsidies.”
5) Allow new genetically-modified foods to be sold with minimal regulation
As it stands, any new genetically-modified crop sold in the UK must be rigorously tested and will be clearly labelled.
But the National Grain and Feed Association called these regulations “onerous” and wants negotiators to “work with their UK counterparts to address these biotech-related regulatory oversight policies” so as to “maximise bilateral trade flows of products derived from deployment of safe crop-production
technologies and minimise regulatory risk for US exporters.”
6) Stop people knowing what they’re eating is genetically-modified food
The UK has a mandatory labelling scheme for genetically-modified food so people are informed about what they are eating.
The National Confectioners Association, which advocates for the $35bn US confectionary industry and whose motto is “always a treat”, wants to see it scrapped.
They said: “US industry also would like to see the US-UK trade agreement achieve progress in removing mandatory labelling and traceability requirements for products containing biotech ingredients.”
7) Get rid of Britain’s safety-first approach to chemicals
Britain’s chemical market operates using the EU’s “precautionary principle”.
It means the UK takes a safety-first approach to regulation and guards against letting anything into the market which could be dangerous.
But the Society of Chemical Manufacturers, which represents over 150 firms involved in the $300bn US chemical industry, told Trump to target this in trade talks.
Its submission says: “In short, the US regulatory system utilises a risk-based analysis while the EU system incorporates a precautionary hazard classification system. An integrated, risk-based approach would greatly reduce regulatory burdens on specialty chemical manufacturers, many of whom are small-and medium-sized enterprises.”
8) Bin protections for traditional British products
Lots of US lobbyists want negotiators to pressure Britain to scrap protections for British produce which regulate how they’re marketed.
The ‘Geographical Indicator’ regulation, currently guaranteed under EU law, stops much-loved products like Stilton and Cornish pasties being imitated by American firms, or indeed anyone, so it’s easy to see why US industry would want rid of it.
The National Milk Producers Association says the UK should be made to “remove currently imposed EU policy restrictions on the use of common cheese names in UK market” to shift the UK closer to World Trade Organisation rules.
9) Change how the NHS buys drugs
The US pharmaceutical business lobby wants to change the British system for evaluating drugs in a way that would suit American firms.
The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America berates the NHS’s current risk-averse system, designed to guard the publicly-funded service against paying for ineffective and overpriced drugs, as “rigid” and a “blunt containment tool”.
In a submission to Trump’s trade department, the group goes on to say the UK’s “narrow approaches health technology assessments, such as rigid cost-effectiveness methodologies, should not be the principle framework for assessing value.”
10) Ignore the presence hormones and pus in dairy products
Your eyes do not deceive you: pus and hormones.
Hormone-treated milk is common in the US but banned in the UK. BST hormone can cause unnecessary suffering to cows and lead to significant amounts of pus finding its way into their milk.
But the National Milk Producers Federation and the US Dairy Export Council want UK regulations to mirror America’s so US dairy products can be sold here.
11) Ensure Brits’ data can be transferred to foreign countries ...
... where it would not necessarily be protected.
The EU and UK is currently pursuing laws which would prevent data from being transferred across borders to other countries where regulation differs wildly. However, the US tech sector wants a new rule which would override any such law in a UK-US trade deal.
BSA - The Software Alliance says the deal should “obligate the parties to permit the cross-border transfer of data” and “prohibit data localisation requirements”.
12) Allow politicians, not courts, to handle legal disputes
A group of American unions is demanding all disputes relating to the US-UK trade deal “shall be settled by state-to-state arbitration” - so, by politicians not judges.
The AFL-CIO group’s ask would vastly restrict the ability of individuals and companies to seek remedies and would mean governments, rather than independent legal experts, make binding rulings on whether the terms of the trade deal have been observed.
13) Allow foreign businesses to sue the British state
A separate investor-state dispute settlement scheme has also been suggested for a US-UK trade deal.
This one, suggested by the powerful Security Industry and Financial Markets Association, would allow multinational companies to sue the Britain over regulations or interventions the state makes in the country’s or citizens’ interests.
A crucial difference of this scheme would mean cases would not be heard in the British courts but in arbitration courts which are not subject to domestic law.
In a recent case in a similar scheme, the Australian government was sued under a similar mechanism for trying to remove branding from cigarettes, for example.
The Association told the consultation: “The most effective dispute settlement mechanism for investors is investor-state arbitration. A UK-US agreement should include such a mechanism and ensure it extends to financial services to enable investors to bring their claims on a depoliticised basis and seek damages for breaches of the obligations.”
14) Stop Britain holding big social media companies to account
Concerns have been growing over the role social media has played not only in damaging young people’s mental health but a huge range of issues plaguing modern life, including a resurgence of sexism, racism and harassment.
Debate continues to rage over how best to regulate social media firms, like Facebook or Twitter, but the US tech lobby wants Trump to curb whatever route the UK eventually chooses.
The Computing Technology Industry Association says negotiators should ensure “the UK does not adopt measures that would impose liability as a publisher, creator, or speaker of information on third party distributors or intermediaries of that information”.
This would prevent the British government from trying to hold tech firms to account for what they publish after any US-UK trade deal.
15) End rules that let British shoppers know what colourings are in their food
US confectionary firms want to see regulation rolled back so they don’t have to make UK shoppers know what colourings are in foods.
This would risk preventing shoppers knowing whether they are buying sweets and chocolate containing chemicals and E-numbers.
The National Confectioners Association have said that “US industry is hopeful that a US-UK trade agreement can achieve progress to rescind the requirement for mandatory warning labels for certain colours used in confectionery that are approved for use in the European Union and by many governments around the world”.
16) Lift the UK ban on a growth hormone in pork
The growth hormone ractopamine is banned in 160 countries, including the UK, Russia and China.
US farmers add it to pig feed to keep hogs’ meat lean but the hormone comes with health concerns, both for humans and animals.
In pigs, ractopamine is associated with hyperactivity, trembling, and broken limbs.
But the National Pork Producers Council said that the UK ban would act “as a major impediment to US pork exports to the UK, confining US exports to a small group of suppliers”.
17) More antibiotics in livestock
Fears are growing worldwide about the spread of antibiotic resistance.
The World Health Organisation has cited it as one of the biggest problems the globe faces in 2018, with concern rising that doctors will find infections more difficult to treat if the drug stops working.
NHS chiefs have warned antibiotic use in farm animals “threatens human health” and Britain and the EU are close to bringing in regulation restricting its use.
But the National Pork Producers Council wants Trump to guarantee the UK does not regulate so it can sell antibiotic-filled meat to UK customers.
18) Eliminate UK testing for a parasitic worm in pork
Trichinae are parasitic roundworms sometimes found in pigs, which, if digested by humans, can cause serious health problems.
Because of this, it is law that all British and EU pork must be tested for trichinae.
But the National Pork Producers Council have told the US government it should make the UK do away with testing.
19) Dump law against chlorine-bleached chicken
British law states that meat for consumption cannot be washed with with antimicrobial products, including chlorine or bleach.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove has ruled out a post-Brexit Britain importing this kind of meat due to public health concerns, but US lobbyists will push the President to ask.
The National Pork Producers Council says the regulation “adds significantly to the cost of exporting pork to the UK, and the UK pathogen reduction treatment ban should be eliminated through the US-UK free trade deal negotiations.”
20) Legalise dangerous pesticides
Many food pesticides sprayed on US crops are deemed too dangerous in Europe.
Neonicotinoid pesticides, for example, are thought to pose risks to bees so are currently banned, while widely used in America.
The US Grains Council thinks the UK has to change its outlook to fit more closely with American rules.
It told the consultation regulation of pesticides has “the potential to negatively impact future US grains exports to the EU”.
It added: “The UK needs to establish its own independent policies and regulations on crop protection products. To help address these issues, the council would advocate strongly for inclusion of the provisions of the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures included in [the US-Mexico trade deal] into a US-UK agreement.”
21) Let fruit and veg be sold with pesticide residue on
Strict limits are imposed on how much pesticide residue can be on fruit and vegetables by the time they reach supermarket shelves in the UK.
But the American Pistachio Growers think this is a bad idea and a “potential barrier” to the easy flow of trade.
It told the consultation: “We strongly urge our US negotiators to include this sanitary and phytosanitary issue as a major trade objective and to persuade the UK to diverge from the EU’s maximum residue level (MRL) policy towards a transparent MRL standard setting policy with the US.”
22) Allow more carcinogens in pistachios
The American Pistachio Growers want UK law to change so that products rejected for containing carcinogenic aflatoxins can be “reconditioned” and put back in to the UK market.
It adds: “Additionally, the US pistachio industry is seeking the ability for US pistachio product found to exceed UK aflatoxin limits in the UK to be reconditioned so it may be brought into compliance.”
23) Loosen regulation on direct selling
Direct selling, or multi-level marketing, is associated with unscrupulous companies. Though not illegal, it is tightly regulated in the UK.
Amway is an American company which specialises in this model of marketing to push health, beauty, and home care products to people in their homes and workplaces.
Its distributors, or as it calls them “independent business owners”, market products directly to people and can sponsor and mentor others to become “independent business owners”.
It has been investigated by the Federal Trade Commission and various countries to see if it is a pyramid scheme, though has not been found guilty.
Amway wants Trump to ensure safeguards on direct selling are lifted in the UK.
24) A big shift on the definition of standards
The libertarian lobby group Americans for Prosperity, founded by the Koch brothers, wants the UK to accept all products made in the US to lower standards.
It wants Trump to guarantee the UK accepts all of the US standards and regulations using one “mutual recognition” clause in any UK-US deal.
It said: “The US should have this type of trade deal with the UK. Like in the EU, such a pact should be based on the principle of ‘mutual recognition’, which means that nations can have their own laws governing economic activity inside their borders, but they recognise that other nations have the same right.”
25) Scrap the ‘Amazon Tax’
Chancellor Philip Hammond is exploring how the UK can tax big online businesses like Google and Amazon more fairly, such as via data storage and processing.
The drive for a so-called ‘Amazon Tax’ has followed a decade of austerity and stands in sharp contrast to gargantuan profits of online firms, many of whom are accused of paying poverty wages and offering poor working conditions to staff.
The US Council for International Business disagrees big firms should pay more.
It says: “Other key digital priorities for a US-UK agreement include: Prohibitions on data storage and data processing taxes, as well as prohibitions on applying taxation measures in a way that discriminates against digital services or is not technologically neutral.”
26) More toxic substances in glass that will be near food
Lead and cadmium are poisonous substances, which is why the UK regulates the amount in glassware intended for contact with food.
In America, they aren’t so careful. Firms look only at how much these poisons leech into food rather than how much of them are present.
Massachusetts glass company Libbey Incoporated prefers the less safe approach.
It says: “In particular, both the US and EU regulate the amount of lead and cadmium in glass that can be used for food and drink. Libbey considers that the US regulations on food contact safety are superior to the EU rules because the US utilises better testing methods.”
27) Allow untested medical devices into the UK
In the US, some medical devices have been immune for testing because they are “substantially similar” to something already in use.
There have already been cases where a device considered to be exempt was later found to be dangerous.
The US Chamber of Commerce would like the UK to adopt similar rules.
Its submission says: “Sector-specific regulatory priorities […] promote greater cooperation between relevant US and UK regulators to reduce unnecessary duplication of testing, spur innovation, and provide greater access to the best available medical devices.”
28) Change how the NHS prices US drugs
The US Chamber of Commerce has hinted that it wants to force the NHS to pay more for drugs.
Its comments to the trade department are a thinly-veiled listing, under a heading “sector-specific regulatory priorities”, asking Trump to “work to ensure pricing and reimbursement systems accurately and fairly reflect the value of research and development processes.”
29) Make the NHS pay as much as possible for new equipment
The Advanced Technology Association - which is the largest medical device association in the world - simply wants to make sure the NHS pays as much as possible for US-made medical equipment.
Trump should ask the UK government to remove all price controls, it says, as part of a demand which, on the face of it, could make it difficult for the NHS to buy equipment for patients at a reasonable cost
It says “one of the principal negotiating objectives of the United States” should be “to achieve elimination of government measures such as price controls and reference pricing which deny full market access for United States products”.
30) Bin rules to stop electrical waste ending up in landfill
UK laws on waste are designed to minimise how much electronic waste ends up in landfill sites or incinerators.
The National Association of Manufacturers, however, says that “unnecessarily restrictive, non-science-based regulatory approaches” are tough on manufacturers despite, it admits, being based on “possible” risk.
It adds: “Many of these policies are currently in place in the United Kingdom and, unless removed or modified substantially, will impact and disadvantage a wide range of manufacturers in the United States by blocking them from exporting many highly competitive American products to that market.”