Trump eyes 'large scale' trade deal with Britain

US President Donald Trump speaks to the press as he meets with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, Thursday. — AFP

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump said on Thursday he anticipated a "large scale" trade agreement with the United Kingdom, as Britain faces a delay to its exit from the European Union after parliament rejected the government's Brexit deal.

Britain's exit from the European Union, which conducts trade deals on its behalf, will see it head to the negotiating table to broker its own commerce pacts with other countries, including the United States, for the first time in decades.

"My Administration looks forward to negotiating a large scale Trade Deal with the United Kingdom. The potential is unlimited!" Trump tweeted.

The US Trade Representative's office has said it would launch talks with Britain after its planned exit from the EU on March 29. Last month, it laid out its objectives for a deal that included reduced tariff and non-tariff barriers for US industrial and agricultural goods.

British trade minister Liam Fox said Trump had shown his ambition for a trade agreement and he looked forward to sitting down at the negotiating table to strengthen the trading relationship.

"Greater trade between us reinforces a comprehensive alliance that goes far beyond the economic, providing for our national security and bringing prosperity to our people," Fox said in a statement in response to Trump's tweet.

Trump has made the US economy and trade a cornerstone of his presidency in line with his "America First" campaign, and has sought to renegotiate pacts with China, Canada and Mexico as well as the EU.

With a little more than two weeks before Britain is due to leave the EU with no firm agreement yet in place, Britain's parliament was due to vote on Thursday on seeking a last-minute delay after UK lawmakers twice rejected Prime Minister Theresa May's EU divorce deal.

Trump, meanwhile, expressed optimism again Thursday about reaching an agreement to resolve a trade war with China, saying talks are "moving along very well."

"We are doing very well with China talks," he told reporters. "We are getting what we have to get."

Despite Trump's upbeat assessment, the two sides continue to lock horns on the hugely complex dispute between the world's biggest economies. Earlier this week, Trump said there was still no plan for him to hold a summit with Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Trump said Wednesday he is "in no rush" for a deal but that there is "a very good chance" for one.

Trump had said he expected to hold a summit with Xi Jinping late this month at his Florida golf resort. However, Bloomberg reported that the "signing summit" had been pushed back a month as negotiators struggled to resolve their eight-month trade war. — Agencies