As trade minister Liz Truss heads to US – the UK's largest export market – can she pull off a deal?

Mon 12 Jul 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

International trade secretary Liz Truss is courting US trade interests during a five-day visit to the country to discuss closer cooperation on tackling threats to free and fair global trade.

The Times reports that Truss is scheduled to meet Katherine Tai, president Biden’s chief trade negotiator, during a visit designed to bolster the transatlantic alliance.

Truss said she was “visiting the US to build on the progress we’ve already made on tackling market-distorting practices that threaten the future progress and prosperity we can make around the world through free and fair trade”.

Building ties

Washington DC is the first stop, where Truss and her team will speak with prominent Democrats to build the case for closer trade ties.

According to Politico, last month the Department for International Trade (DIT) “peppered Congress” and representatives from all 50 states with fact sheets underscoring the value of trade at the state level.

Following Washington DC, the trade minister will travel to the West Coast to meet businesses in a bid to promote Britain as a destination for tech investment, reports Reuters.

Tech talks

Britain hopes to entice tech firms to a planned Global Investment Summit at Windsor Castle in October.

Digital trade is a major part of the UK economy, with digital sectors contributing around £151bn in 2019, according to government figures. The UK tech sector attracted £7.3bn of foreign investment in 2020, and the UK is home to 100 unicorn companies with a value of more than $1bn, joining the US as one of only three countries to reach this milestone. 

'End lamb ban'

Another objective is to overcome the ban on British lamb exports to the US, which dates back to 1989 and fears over mad cow disease. Truss will talk to deputy agriculture secretary Jewel ­Bronaugh in Washington DC.

The Sun reports that the UK overturned its British beef ban last year provoking hope that lamb will follow. Beef business to the US is now worth £66m.

On the wider trade front, Truss is said to be resigned to not getting a trade deal with the US until 2023 at the earliest, reports City AM.

The UK had been hoping for a fast track deal with the US, under negotiations begun under president Trump. These foundered when Trump lost the election and the Biden administration was less focused on a UK deal.

A deal in 2023?

The Sunday Telegraph reported that with a deal unlikely until the US mid-term elections are out of the way in November 2022, Truss was “playing the long game” in courting various US interests.

“We want the backing of the American public, key industries like tech, and the political class, and Liz is out there to get that and bang the drum for Britain,” a source said.

The US is the UK’s largest single-country trading partner, with total trade reaching over £196bn in 2020.