International trade minister Anne-Marie Trevelyan is meeting her US counterpart Katherine Tai today (25 April) to begin the second transatlantic dialogue to foster trade relations between the UK and US.
The talks in Aberdeen will focus on agreed priority areas such as digital trade and innovation, green trade, supporting SMEs and supply chain resilience.
Trevelyan will raise the importance of closer trade ties in creating jobs and spreading economic opportunities throughout the UK, the government has announced.
Pave the way
The talks bring together leaders from across Scottish, central and local government, as well as businesses, trade unions and civil society groups.
The Department for International Trade said the discussions will pave the way for further engagement with the US, including ongoing work to secure state-level trade deals and removing barriers to trade.
Trevelyan said: “This dialogue gives us a platform to explore more modern, digital ways of trading. It will identify and resolve barriers to trade to make it cheaper and easier for businesses in Scotland and throughout the UK to do business with our US friends.”
UK trade with the US is worth £200bn annually, and US investment supports over 100,000 jobs and generates nearly £50bn for the Scottish economy, STV reports.
Shevaun Haviland, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, told the Independent he hoped SMEs’ concerns were recognised in the talks.
“Supply chain disruption and soaring inflation have reduced the operating margins of many small firms to almost nothing, so reducing the costs of trade with the US would be a huge boost for them,” he said.
Trade deal reluctance
The UK’s hopes of a broad trade deal with the US were stymied when Joe Biden entered the White House last year and it became apparent that the Democrat was less disposed to a bilateral agreement than his predecessor Donald Trump.
Biden has also repeatedly called on the UK and EU to maintain peace on the island of Ireland during the protracted negotiations over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol. The US is a guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement.
State deals imminent
In the absence of a bilateral trade deal, the UK is looking to secure deals with individual US states, reports the Mirror.
Trade minister Penny Mordaunt told the Commons that Britain is expected to sign its first economic pacts with American states next month, with an arrangement with Texas likely before October.
“The first eight we have in the pipeline will be equivalent to 20% of the United States economy,” she told MPs.
Mordaunt said the UK was talking to 20 states at the moment and that this would increase.
“This is big stuff - it will reduce costs for business, it will open up new opportunities for UK businesses and make it easier for them to actually provide services and goods to the US,” she said.
According to the Guardian, the government’s lack of engagement on workers’ rights could be a stumbling block to closer ties with the US at a national level.
Union leaders from both countries said Washington would push for a “worker-centred approach to trade” to help unlock a deal.
A statement from union federations the TUC and America’s AFL-CIO, said the UK government had failed to grasp the importance of labour rights and had been too quick to sign deals with regimes that did not respect human or labour rights.
The groups said that, under Joe Biden, the US had increasingly involved protections for workers’ rights in trade negotiations, including in the latest US-Mexico-Canada agreement.
Skills not cheap labour
The Guardian also reports that the UK risks losing out on foreign investment unless it builds a better skills base among its labour force.
The report, by the Skills Taskforce for Global Britain, said that while the UK had a good record at attracting foreign investment in the past, this had been based on low labour costs rather than on skills.
“We are now at a tipping point. There is a real risk of the UK being overtaken by other countries where the offer to investors is based on skills,” it said.