White House

Trump backtracks from comment that U.K. health service would be part of trade talks

Outgoing PM May on Tuesday appeared to leave wiggle room in nascent negotiations

British Prime Minister Theresa May, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump pose outside 10 Downing Street on Tuesday. Trump backtracked from a pledge that the U.K.'s National Health Service would be part of trade deal talks. (Peter Summers/Getty Images)

Attempting to keep hopes of a sweeping U.S.-U.K. trade pact alive, President Donald Trump reversed himself by taking Britain’s National Health Service off the table.

I don't see it being on the table. Somebody asked me a question today and I say everything is up for negotiation, because everything is but I don't see that being,” the U.S. leader told “Good Morning Britain” on ITV in an interview that aired Wednesday morning. “That's something that I would not consider part of trade. That's not trade.”

His remark came after U.K. and international media outlets used descriptions such as “backlash” to describe the reaction there Tuesday after Trump told reporters he expected the health system - in place since 1948 following World War II in England, Scotland and Wales - to be covered during negotiations.

[Republican rebellion over Mexico tariffs overshadows Trump’s European visit]

“Look, I think everything with a trade deal is on the table. … When you’re dealing in trade, everything is on the table — so, NHS or anything else,” Trump said during a joint press conference alongside outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May. “There are a lot — a lot — more than that. But everything will be on the table, absolutely.”

But May quickly interjected, despite the fact that she will not be a part of the talks after she leaves office later this week. She appeared to suggest whether or not NHS might be altered under the potential deal has yet to be decided.

“But the point about making trade deals is, of course, that both sides negotiate and come to an agreement about what should or should not be in that trade deal for the future,” she said.

Trump has repeatedly optimistically talked about a trade pact between the longtime allies during his visit, which began Monday morning. As he prepares to head to Ireland following a D-Day ceremony and meetings in Portsmouth, England, Trump hailed a possible deal in a social media post.

[Republicans eager to avoid getting stuck between Trump and tariffs on Mexico]

“Could not have been treated more warmly in the United Kingdom by the Royal Family or the people. Our relationship has never been better, and I see a very big Trade Deal down the road,” he tweeted.

His administration has opened a number of trade negotiations, hoping to ink one-on-one deals with other countries rather than multi-country pacts such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership the Obama administration worked out with a number of Asian allies.

An exception is a proposed pact with Mexico and Canada, which has yet to be approved by any of the three countries’ legislatures. In the U.S., that proposed deal could be threatened by Trump’s call to impose tariffs on goods moving into the country from Mexico as part of his quest to keep migrants from crossing the border.

So far, the administration has yet to complete a new trade pact. Talks with China, for instance, soured last month, and appear to be stalled.

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