New U.S. trade chief Tai to speak next week with British counterpart - sources

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senate Finance Committee conducts hearing on nomination of Katherine Tai to be U.S. Trade Representative.

By David Lawder and William James

WASHINGTON/LONDON (Reuters) - Newly confirmed U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai will speak next week with British trade minister Liz Truss about a range of issues from stalled trade talks to resolving an aircraft subsidy dispute, people familiar with the arrangements said on Thursday.

The call comes as the United States and Britain have agreed to a four-month suspension of some tariffs in an effort to resolve the trade dispute over subsidies to aircraft makers Airbus and Boeing Co.

A British official said the two trade ministers would discuss how to carry forward negotiations to try to reach a permanent deal on the 17-year-old Airbus-Boeing dispute and possible next steps on broader U.S.-UK free trade negotiations.

The official also said Tai and Truss would discuss cooperation on global trade issues such as reform of World Trade Organization rules to rein in industrial subsidies and how to make trade more climate-friendly.

The call is also a chance for Tai and Truss to get to know each other better and possibly lay the groundwork for an in-person meeting once coronavirus restrictions allow it, the official added.

The U.S. Trade Representative's Office (USTR) did not respond to a request for comment on the meeting.

Tai, the former top trade lawyer on the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee and a former USTR China enforcement chief, was confirmed as the first woman of color to lead the agency on Wednesday in a rare unanimous Senate vote.

The daughter of immigrants from Taiwan is due to be sworn into office by U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday evening.

The Biden administration has said it wants to patch up relations with allies that have been battered by former President Donald Trump's tariffs and trade threats, especially to more broadly confront China's trade practices. But it has not indicated a specific desire to complete the UK trade agreement.

In answers to senators' questions during her confirmation process, Tai was noncommittal about a making a deal.

"If confirmed, I plan to carefully review the status of the negotiations with the United Kingdom," Tai wrote in response to a question from Republican Senator Richard Burr. "In general, and in consultation with Congress, I will craft a trade policy consistent with the Build Back Better agenda that prioritizes the interest of America's workers and supports a strong recovery for our economy."

(Reporting by David Lawder in Washington and William James in London; Additional reporting by Elizabeth Piper in London and Sabahatjahan in Bengaluru; editing by Jonathan Oatis)