UK considers alternatives to deepening US trade ties including bid to join US-Mexico-Canada pact

Wed 22 Sept 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

us-uk trade deal

US President Joe Biden confirmed that the chances of a quick UK-US trade deal are slim at his White House meeting with Boris Johnson yesterday (21 September).

Although the PM has been cheered by the US lifting travel restrictions for tourists from the UK and other countries, as well as increased US financial support for tackling climate change, there was little positive news from his trip in relation to deepening trade ties.

NI Protocol

Biden again underlined his concerns that the renegotiation of the Northern Ireland Protocol could undermine peace on the island of Ireland, reports the Times.

Saying he felt “very strongly” about the Protocol, Biden said the US had “spent an enormous amount of time and effort” on Ireland.

“And I would not at all like to see, nor I might add would many of my Republican colleagues like to see, a change in the Irish accords, the end result having a closed border in Ireland,” he added.

Back of the queue

Post-Brexit, the UK was hoping that a trade deal with the US would help to boost its exports and show the world that Britain could continue to operate as leading trade nation outside of the EU.

However, the Biden administration has deprioritised bilateral trade deals with the US recovery from the pandemic, infrastructure plans and multilateral agreements viewed as being of higher importance.

Alternative options

According to a senior government figure, the UK is now considering alternative options to a bilateral deal, including joining an existing trade pact between the US, Mexico and Canada (also known as USMCA) or striking a series of mini deals with the US.

“There are different ways to do this, the ball in their court and it takes two to tango,” the source told Sky News.

No request

According to Bloomberg, a spokesperson from the office of the US Trade Representative said it had not received a request from the UK to join the USMCA yet, adding that there is no accession clause in the accord.

The USMCA agreement came into effect in July last year and replaced the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which former President Donald Trump wanted to replace.

CPTPP precedent

The UK has also submitted an application to join the CPTPP – the Pacific Rim free-trade pact of 11 nations including Japan, Canada and Australia.

This could be a back door to closer trade links with the US if it too joins. 

The US had planned to join the Pacific pact during the Obama presidency but withdrew from the negotiations when his successor, Trump, entered the White House.