Britain and US resolve trade row over steel and aluminium tariffs

Accord sees UK end retaliatory tariffs on products including bourbon and Levi’s jeans

The UK government has said it has reached a resolution with the United States to end a controversy over steel and aluminium tariffs.

A similar deal was reached with the EU last year but an agreement with the UK was held up by concerns in the Biden administration over the separate issue of the post-Brexit trading rules to apply in Northern Ireland and British threats to suspend parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

As part of an agreement reached following talks in Washington on Tuesday, steel and aluminium exporters from the UK will have “a high level” of tariff-free access to the US market.

In return the UK will remove additional taxes it has levied on US products such as such as bourbon, Levi's jeans and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.


The 25 per cent tariff on steel and 10 per cent tariff on aluminium were imposed by the US under the administration of former president Donald Trump during a dispute with the EU in 2018.

The Biden administration agreed last October to lift the Trump-era tariffs on EU steel and aluminium. However the US delayed at the time removing similar taxes on UK products. This was reportedly due to concerns that the British prime minister Boris Johnson was planning to suspend unilaterally parts of the UK/EU trade accord – a move the Biden administration feared could have implications for the Belfast Agreement.

The UK said on Tuesday that the new deal on tariffs represented “good news for the steel and aluminium sectors, which support the jobs of over 80,000 people” across the country. It said the changes would take effect on June 1st, 2022.

UK international trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said: “Hopefully we can now move forward and focus on deepening our thriving trading relationship with the US.”

Investment links

US and UK authorities held two days of talks in Maryland this week aimed at deepening trade and investment links between the two countries.

Securing a bi-lateral free trade agreement with the US has been a high priority for the UK since it left the EU. However, the Biden administration had indicated that its focus was on its domestic agenda

A further round of talks will take place in April.

A joint statement issued after the discussions on Tuesday said the talks had included a series of roundtable discussions with a diverse group of national and local workers, business and civil society stakeholders.

It said US trade authorities and the UK department for international trade staff had discussed opportunities “to advance the US-UK trade relationship and advance an inclusive trade policy”.

“The stakeholder roundtables identified areas of consensus where the UK and US can build and deepen their co-operation on trade. This includes protecting labour rights and the environment; promoting supply chain resilience; supporting the low-carbon transition; making it easier for SMEs to export; and ensuring the benefits of trade are evenly distributed across our countries.”

Martin Wall

Martin Wall

Martin Wall is Washington Correspondent of The Irish Times. He was previously industry correspondent