Trade minister Penny Mordaunt has said that UK efforts to sign trade and business deals with individual US states could pave the way for nationwide talks with the White House later this year.
Mordaunt signed the first state deal with Indiana last Friday and deals with Oklahoma, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas are likely in the coming months.
‘Head of steam’
The minister told City AM that the negotiations had helped thaw relations with the White House, which had stalled when Joe Biden became the 46th US president.
“I think there is a real head of steam now from the US side in terms of its businesses and its states,” she said. “A lot of it is politicians too, who are actually starting to open up to round six of those discussions.”
Mordaunt said talks would look to remove tariffs and other trade barriers, and that the UK would work at a pace the US is comfortable with.
The deal with Indiana will look to improve procurement processes and strengthen academic and research ties, enabling academics and businesses to collaborate.
It also aims to promote mutual recognition of professional qualifications on both sides of the Atlantic.
Mordaunt said an agreement with Texas is currently the most realistic with a “super economy state”, with a deal set to be concluded this year. Talks with California have stalled for the time being.
“There will be particular partnerships between institutions – academic institutions, education institutions and also across particular sectors,” Mordaunt said.
Stumbling blocks to a deal have included the UK’s reluctance to lowering standards around agricultural imports.
Practices such as chlorine washing of chicken and steroid hormone use in beef production are not permitted in the UK but are in the US.
Mordaunt said she had been speaking with agricultural commissioners from the 50 states to try and build support for a UK-US agreement.
The UK’s ongoing negotiations with the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol have also become a hindrance to progress towards a comprehensive transatlantic deal.
US Congress speaker Nancy Pelosi has said she would not support a free trade agreement with the UK if London persists with “deeply concerning” plans to “unilaterally discard” the Protocol, the Telegraph reports.
US concerns about UK plans to bring in legislation to disapply parts of the Protocol led to a delegation from US Congress holding talks in Brussels, London, Dublin and Belfast to emphasise the strength of US commitment to the Good Friday Agreement.