Boris Johnson puts foot in it over socks trade with US
Boris Johnson’s claim that onerous US fire regulations are putting a dampener on British sock exports to the US have been called into question ahead of trade talks between the prime minister and US president Donald Trump.Not for the first time Mr Johnson’s claims about trade have come under fire from exporters, with sock producers claiming that exports to the US are not hindered by regulatory problems.Mr Johnson, who is desperate to strike a trade deal with the US to offset expected loss of trade with the EU after Brexit, has insisted he will talk tough with Mr Trump when he meets the president in New York on Tuesday.He said that in any trade deal Britain would demand better access to the US market, citing in particular what he claimed were the tariffs and burdensome fire checks that were obstructing British sock exports.“If you try to sell British socks in North America they currently attract a 19 per cent tariff and the Americans insist before they allow them to be sold on the US market they must try to set fire to them twice,” he told reporters en route to the UN General Assembly.
My opinion is that if it comes out of Boris Johnson’s mouth, it’s likely not to be true
But Corgi Socks, a leading sock manufacturer, told Politico that US regulations did not present a problem for their business. “Duty tariffs are a bit of a barrier but regulations are not,” said Chris Jones, the company’s managing director.Rueven Fletcher, owner of the Sock Council — a UK retailer which describes itself as a “connoisseur of fine hosiery” — was uncomplimentary about the prime minister’s intervention. “My opinion is that if it comes out of Boris Johnson’s mouth, it’s likely not to be true,” he said.A spokesperson for Number 10 Downing Street told Politico that the 19 per cent tariff on socks represents “a significant barrier to market access for start-ups and new entrants”.During the Tory leadership campaign, which Mr Johnson won in July, he claimed that an Isle of Man kipper smoker had been stymied by EU red tape relating to “ice pillows”; it turned out the EU did not make rules on the packaging of smoked fish.Mr Johnson has also claimed that Melton Mowbray pork pies were facing restrictions in the US, despite makers of the traditional snack suggesting there was little appetite for the product in overseas markets. Mr Johnson said he would tell Mr Trump he must open US markets to British products and that the UK would not bow to demands to lower its food safety and animal welfare standards. He added: “The NHS is not on the table.”