January 27, 2017 / 7:21 PM / in 8 months

UPDATE 2-UK's Fox says committed to free trade with U.S., Canada

(Adds comments from Canada trade minister)

MONTREAL, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Britain is committed to free and open trade with the United States and Canada, UK Trade Minister Liam Fox said on Friday, though he did not elaborate on whether that would mean bilateral trade talks with the two countries.

Fox, speaking at the Montreal Council of Foreign Relations, noted that the UK cannot negotiate trade deals while still part of the European Union, though he said discussions were possible.

“The UK is committed to free and open trade with the United States, as we are with Canada,” Fox said.

Fox was speaking as British Prime Minister Theresa May met with U.S. President Donald Trump. May said on Thursday that Britain and the United States could look at areas where both countries could remove some trade barriers to their mutual advantage.

“Our government has been greatly encouraged by the attitude of the new American administration,” Fox said.

May plans to trigger Britain’s exit from the EU by the end of March, which will start two years of divorce negotiations.

Speaking at the same event in Montreal, Canada Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne said the fact that he has met with Fox two times during the last seven days illustrates Canada’s commitment to the UK.

“We start with a strong base because we already have CETA,” he told reporters on the sidelines of the event, referring to a planned free trade agreement between the EU and Canada.

The two countries signed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement in October, though it still needs approval from the European Parliament.

“We may have a CETA-plus down the road,” Champagne added, without giving further detail.

Canada’s finance minister said in November that a post-Brexit trade deal would use a trade deal between Canada and the European Union as a template.

Britain is Canada’s fourth-largest trade partner.

Reporting by Allison Lampert; Editing by Andrew Hay and Lisa Shumaker

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