UK negotiating position on US trade talks: the techlaw aspects in summary

March 5, 2020

The UK government has published its position paper on US trade talks. The document sets out the strategic approach for securing a free trade agreement with the US as well as the evidence underlying the government’s approach.

Key for tech lawyers is the UK government’s aim that “the world-leading agreement the UK wants will…be geared towards maximising the UK’s reach in emerging fields like global data flows and artificial intelligence” as well as professional services. 

According to the document, around two thirds of UK services trade with the US are delivered remotely. The government therefore “will include a digital trade chapter with cutting edge provisions that will aim to maximise opportunities for digital trade across all sectors of the economy, providing trust and stability for UK businesses, entrepreneurs and exporters”.

The government says that business across the economy and the country will benefit from an FTA including:

Digital Economy: “In areas such as data flows, blockchain, driverless cars and quantum technology we have the opportunity to help shape global rules through ambitious digital trade provisions”.

Professional and business services: “The UK exported £24 billion of business services to the US, including in key areas of UK strength such as accountancy, architecture and legal services. An FTA with the US could allow professionals to move more easily and support recognition of professional qualifications, for example in accountancy and the legal profession”.

Creative industries: “The UK’s world-leading creative industries sector will benefit and be supported by copyright provisions that link to an effective and balanced global system. We will establish frameworks for the industries of the future, with a focus on agreeing advanced digital trade provisions that promote an eco-system for businesses of all sizes across the UK to thrive”.

Outline approach

The government plans to futureproof the agreement in line with the Government’s ambition on climate and in anticipation of rapid technological developments, such as AI. It also says that it will:

Trade in Services

  • “Secure ambitious commitments from the US on market access and fair competition for UK services exporters”.
  • “Agree best-in-class rules for all services sectors, as well as sector-specific rules, to support our world-leading services industry, including key UK export sectors such as financial services, professional and business services and transport services”.
  • “Ensure certainty for UK services exporters in their continuing access to the US market and transparency on US services regulation”. 

Digital trade

  • “Secure cutting-edge provisions which maximise opportunities for digital trade across all sectors of the economy”.
  • “Include provisions that facilitate the free flow of data, whilst ensuring that the UK’s high standards of personal data protection are maintained, and include provisions to prevent unjustified data localisation requirements”. 
  • “Promote appropriate protections for consumers online and ensure the Government maintains its ability to protect users from emerging online harms”.
  • “Support the reduction or abolition of business and consumer restrictions relating to access to the US digital market”. 
  • “Ensure customs duties are not imposed on electronic transmissions”. 
  • “Promote a world-leading eco-system for digital trade that supports businesses of all sizes, across the UK”. 


  • “Promote fair and transparent access to the US telecommunications market and avoid trade distortions”. 
  • “Secure greater accessibility and connectivity for UK consumers and businesses in the US market”. 


  • “Provide for effective competition law and enforcement that promotes open and fair competition for UK firms at home and in the US”.
  • “Provide for transparent and non-discriminatory competition laws, with strong procedural rights for businesses and people under investigation”. 
  • “Ensure core consumer rights are protected”. 
  • “Promote effective co-operation between enforcement agencies on competition and consumer protection matters”. 

The government says that it is committed to ensuring that its trade policy is transparent and subject to appropriate parliamentary scrutiny. During negotiations, it will publish regular updates on negotiations. The document also includes a scoping assessment on of the “potential long run

impacts” of a FTA with the US. Following the conclusion of negotiations and once the text of a UK-US agreement is known, a full impact assessment will be published before implementation. The final impact assessment will update and refine the preliminary estimates of the scale and distribution of impacts outlined in the scoping assessment. 

The government carried out a consultation on a possible US trade deal last year and notes stakeholders’ responses regarding data protection and privacy standards in the UK. It says that it will ensure that robust protections for personal data are maintained. The UK will allow for the continued free flow of data to the EU on a transitional basis, subject to the UK’s own independent UK ‘adequacy’ arrangements being established, which will govern the transfer of personal data from the UK. In addition, it is the UK’s intention to secure adequacy decisions from the EU to allow personal data to continue to flow freely from the EU/EEA to the UK. The government says it has taken note of the UK’s interest in facilitating the free flow of data and eliminating unjustified data localisation requirements.