Letter to PM and SoS for International Trade on US talks and Covid-19 epidemic

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Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds the Daily Covid-19 Digital Press Conference, gesturing and standing in front of a lectern with the government slogan on the front: "Stay alert > Control the virus > Save lives". Photo: Pippa Fowles / No 10 Downing Street.

Dear Prime Minister and Secretary of State for International Trade,

The United States Trade Representative announced on 23 March 2020 that “both the United States and the United Kingdom are committed to starting trade negotiations as soon as possible”, and the UK government has similarly signaled its desire to begin and conclude negotiations soon. This is despite the Covid-19 pandemic which has created a public health crisis and associated government response in both the UK and the US.

In the context of the whole of the UK and part of the US being in lockdown, and Parliament rising earlier than planned this week, it would be deeply inappropriate for trade negotiations with the United States to commence at this time – or for the foreseeable future. The UK government’s attention should be focused on dealing with the public health and economic crises which face our nation.

As UK civil society organisations representing thousands of members, we have multiple concerns about a trade agreement with the US particularly, including its impact on:

  • food standards
  • climate action
  • medicine prices and the NHS
  • animal welfare
  • digital technology
  • the world’s poorer countries
  • labour rights
  • chemical protection standards.

These are high risk issues that need considered public debate and democratic scrutiny, but this debate cannot happen amidst national lockdown and with Parliament closed. Outside of a time of crisis, when the government has the time and resources to dedicate to negotiations, we expect full public and Parliamentary engagement with appropriate scrutiny and transparency throughout the process.

We call on the government to pause all trade negotiations until the Covid-19 crisis is under control and to inform both the public and potential trade partners of this necessary action.


  • The Trade Justice Movement
  • Baby Milk Action Network
  • Compassion in World Farming
  • CHEM Trust
  • Friends of the Earth
  • Global Justice Now
  • Nurses United UK
  • Open Rights Group
  • Pesticide Action Network UK
  • Soil Association
  • Sustain
  • SumOfUs
  • Traidcraft Exchange
  • War on Want
  • We Own It