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Trump Pledges To Offer Britain 'Fair' Trade Deal In 'Times Of London' Interview


Donald Trump told the British daily The Times that the U.S. will offer Britain a quick and fair trade deal within weeks of his taking office. Trump says he wants to help make Brexit a great thing. But what lies ahead for relations between the U.S. and the U.K.? David Rennie, the Washington bureau chief of The Economist, is here in the studio. Welcome...


SIEGEL: ...To the program. And first, how big is the economic relationship between Britain and the U.S.?

RENNIE: It's gigantic, and it goes two ways. And British companies employ a lot of Americans. American companies employ a lot of Brits. There have been moments where the single largest source of foreign direct investment in the U.S. was from the U.K.

SIEGEL: And how much of the attraction of the U.K. to American business has been Britain's membership in the EU?

RENNIE: Well, a lot. Britain has positioned itself over the years as the English-speaking, free market, Thatcherite kind of gateway to the continent. A lot of American businesses, not just finance but also all kinds of Americans of high tech businesses, big pharmaceutical companies, have taken advantage of that.

And that then begs a big question about whether Britain is completely attractive to someone America-first like Donald Trump before Britain can answer the question, what will be the future of its trading terms with the continent of Europe?

SIEGEL: We've heard Theresa May say it remains overwhelmingly in the interest of Britain that the EU should succeed. You think Donald Trump, who's predicted that other European countries will be leaving the EU, shares that interest that it should succeed?

RENNIE: Well, precisely not, and I think that was why it was a really important statement for her to make because we - what we've just seen - you mentioned the interview that Donald Trump gave to The Times of London the other day where he was saying that Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, had made catastrophic mistakes letting in Syrian refugees and describing the European Union as basically a vehicle for Germany.

That aligns Donald Trump with the far right, with Nigel Farage in Britain, with people like Marine Le Pen, who's trying to become president of France this year, people who basically think the EU should blow up, and that would be a jolly good thing because it should be replaced by kind of nationalist identity politics. That's not where Theresa May is. And she also does not want a fallout with Angela Merkel as she begins these very painful negotiations.

SIEGEL: Well, let's go back to something else that Trump said in that interview with The Times, which is the quick and fair trade deal that he hopes to negotiate with the U.K. Can you imagine the United States and Britain negotiating a trade deal within a matter of weeks?

RENNIE: No. These things take years, and they take years for a reason, which is that they're not expressions of love and friendship between two countries. Their business deals. Until Britain can explain to U.S. firms what happens when goods cross the English Channel and go into Europe from Britain, it's not clear that you can do a final deal with the U.S. and the U.K.

SIEGEL: Donald Trump speaks of his openness to a friendlier relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. That's a position that enjoys support with some of the continental nationalist movements that you've described. What about Britain's Conservative government? What's their view of Putin?

RENNIE: Totally the opposite. Britain has been a leading player in pushing for tougher sanctions on Russia after the occupation of Crimea and its ventures in Ukraine. The British government needs America as a friend. Donald Trump is offering to be a friend. But once you get into real questions of crunchy geopolitics - and you're right to mention Russia - there's a huge gap. And the big tell is the word global.

If you look at how many times Theresa May used the word global Britain in her speech today, this is against Donald Trump, who - globalism is his enemy. Nationalism is his friend. The pitch from the British government is that the EU is this kind of rotting hulk that is keeping us back from zooming all around the world as this kind of Singapore of the north - de-regulated, in love with free trade, a sort of swashbuckling capitalism. It's a very different view from that kind of Steve Bannon nationalism that Trump is peddling.

SIEGEL: Yeah, the argument is, we want to get into a larger arena than the EU, not, we want to be a little England.

RENNIE: Absolutely.

SIEGEL: David Rennie of The Economist, thanks for talking with us.

RENNIE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEER TICK SONG, "BALTIMORE BLUES NO. 1") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.