Foreign secretary Cleverly confirms government 'not prioritising' trade deal with the US

Wed 10 May 2023
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

US flag

Foreign secretary James Cleverly has said the UK is “not prioritising an FTA with the US”, during an official visit to Washington DC yesterday (9 May).

Cleverly said that the UK would look at “areas where we can work more closely, more collaboratively, have real economic coordination that does not require the traditional kind of tariff-reducing elements of an FTA”.

A trade deal with the US has been an important post-Brexit target for successive Conservative administrations, with agreements with individual states being used as a way to deepen trade ties.

Hopes of a nationwide bilateral deal had risen after the Windsor Framework was signed between the UK and EU, with both Democratic and Republican politicians urging the Biden administration to start negotiations, as reported by the FT.

Economic alliance

Speaking at a press conference with US secretary of state Anthony Blinken, Cleverly said there were advantages to being able to speak directly and regularly with the US.

“The UK is also seeking to build an economic alliance which protects the interests of the US while simultaneously protecting the UK’s interests, protects standards, protects against the use of constrictions of key elements of global supply chains as a form of political or – as a form of coercion,” he added.

‘Ideological approach’

The confirmation comes as a former government minister lashed out at the UK government’s previous approach to trade deals.

Former cabinet minister George Eustice criticised the government’s “ideological” approach to negotiations, saying the UK gave too much away in talks without getting much in return, reports the Independent.

“Treasury officials were quite strongly of the view that tariffs were protectionist – that we should just scrap them all,” he said.

Eustice singled out the Australia deal in particular for criticism.

Politics Home reports that critics are warning that the UK’s “priorities and objectives” in its multiple trade talks remain an enigma and are potentially damaging to businesses and government.

Inflation Reduction act

Questioned about the contentious US Inflation Reduction Act, which has been criticised as harming other countries’ green technology sectors, Blinken said the US would look to address any “unintended consequences” of the act and that it was “not all zero sum”.

“I think there are profound benefits in the [act] for many of our partners around the world because, again, we will be increasingly joined in a supply chain that we’ve been working to build. So, I suspect that when the prime minister is here, we’ll continue with that conversation,” he said.

Rishi Sunak is to meet president Joe Biden in Washington in June to continue discissions over the joint economic relationship.