Labour prepares for trade talks with Washington as current PM Sunak meets Biden in London

Tue 11 Jul 2023
Posted by: Phillip Adnett
Trade News

UK and UK representative shaking hands

The Labour party will hold talks with a high-level trade official from US president Joe Biden’s cabinet today (11 July), as leader Keir Starmer continues to build links with the White House ahead of next year’s expected general election.

The Times reports that shadow international trade secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds is in Washington meeting with US trade representative Katherine Tai to discuss a future deal on digital trade.

Thomas-Symonds is expected to use a speech after the meeting to declare that a Labour-led UK would be “open for business”.

Digital focus

The MP – who also committed to prioritising trade links with India at an event last week (4 July), in which the Indian High Commissioner to the UK addressed Labour party members  – is expected to make the case for a digital trade deal focusing on services.

Any agreement would include an abolition of tariffs on digital content and the removal of barriers on data flows across the Atlantic.

Currently, any hopes of a nationwide, bilateral US-UK deal appear to have stalled, although the government has announced a series of agreements with individual states, with Utah being the latest to sign.

Sunak meets Biden

The current UK prime minister, Rishi Sunak, hosted Biden in London yesterday, ahead of a NATO summit today in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.

The leaders discussed progress made since they announced the Atlantic Declaration last month, with Sunak updating the president on the UK’s forthcoming AI summit.

Critical minerals

Since their last meeting in the White House, the UK and US have also begun work on a critical minerals agreement and the Joint Action Group on Energy Security continues to convene to strengthen clean energy supply chains, the government has said.

According to the Evening Standard, the visit came amid tensions between the countries on support for Ukraine, with the UK favouring faster NATO membership for the Eastern European country and opposing the US supply of cluster munitions to its armed forces.

Rebuilding relationship

In the sixth meeting with Biden since he became PM in October, Sunak was focused on repairing the joint relationship after a difficult few years, reports the Guardian.

Both leaders are likely to face the electorate next year, with Sunak expected to call a general election in 2024 and Biden having already announced his re-election bid.

The US leader also met King Charles III for what the UK government called a “climate finance mobilisation forum” to boost efforts to unlock private capital and encourage increase support for developing economies to make transition to net zero.

Yellen in China

With Biden in Europe, US treasury secretary Janet Yellen concluded her four-day trip to China, where she reportedly tried to dampen any talk of hostilities between the two nations.

She has since tweeted about her efforts to stabilise the relationship and has said that there is room to boost trade and investment, despite ongoing tensions between the superpowers.

Yellen’s trip to China included a five-hour meeting with Chinese chief economist, He Lifeng.

According to Politico, the trip yielded no immediate breakthroughs on disputes over US tariffs or China’s non-market economic practices, but Yellen said it could “help build a resilient and productive channel of communication with China’s new economic team”.