UK eyes small improvements to US trade ties with promise of 'practical' help for domestic exporters

Thu 23 Sept 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

The three-decade ban on UK exports of lamb to the US looks set to be lifted, even though a wider trade deal between the two countries is not imminent.

Prime minister Boris Johnson heralded the lifting of the “unjustified” and discriminatory lamb ban as his trip to the US ended yesterday (Wednesday 23 September) and said future trade developments with the US would be “incremental”.

President Joe Biden downplayed down the chances of a wider deal during his meeting with Johnson on Tuesday, reports the BBC.

‘No free trade deals right now’

Johnson said prospects of a free trade deal with the US remained, and the UK would continue to practically help exporters, the Telegraph reports.

“What we are wanting to do is make solid incremental steps on trade. The Biden administration is not doing free trade deals around the world right now,” he said. “But I have got absolutely every confidence that a great deal is there to be done.”

Downing Street has pointed to the resolution of the Airbus-Boeing trade dispute, as well as the lowering of whisky tariffs and the decision to lift the ban on British beef last year, as evidence of incremental gains.

Alternative approaches

As covered in the IOE&IT Daily Update, in the absence of a wider trade deal, the UK is considering alternative approaches to deepening trade ties with the US, such as joining the USMCA trade bloc that includes Mexico and Canada.

British lamb has been banned in the US since 1989 following the ‘mad cow’ outbreak of BSE in Britain.

According to the BBC, there is no indication yet of when the US will start accepting lamb from the UK, and an official announcement has not been made.

The National Sheep Association industry group welcomed the news, and said the US was a “potentially important market”.

Kebab ready

Speaking to reporters in Washington DC, Johnson said the move lifted a “decades-old ban, totally unjustified, discriminating on British farmers and British lamb”.

He added: “We are going to be able to export British lamb to the US for the first time in decades. It will allow kebabs, the kofta, the lamb burgers of the people of the US [to] be supplied at last by Britain, and fantastic juicy cuts of Welsh lamb and everything else.”