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uk us trade

The UK is stepping up efforts to negotiate trade deals with up to 20 individual US states following a visit by trade minister Penny Mordaunt to Texas and Arkansas last week.

Britain is pursuing state-specific agreements in the absence of a broader US deal, with President Joe Biden reluctant to launch nationwide negotiations.

‘Quick wins’

The Times reports that ministers expect to secure “real quick wins” in the coming months, with the first four deals due to be finalised within weeks.

“We need to be doing this with, I think, everywhere in the US,” Mordaunt told The Times.

Practical benefits

Mordaunt admitted that the planned agreements would not be legally binding or cut tariffs.

However, she said that they would amount to bilateral statements “of ambition” with “immediate and practical” benefits for businesses, such as knocking down regulatory barriers and reducing costs.

‘Massive opportunities’

The minister told Arkansas’s Talk Business & Politics that the UK sees “massive opportunities” for trading with the US having left the European Union in 2020.

She has been touring US states since December in a bid to identify ways to:

  • Remove trade barriers
  • Support UK producers to get goods to the US market
  • Create mutual recognition of qualifications in technical, legal, engineering and other fields

State priority

The UK has been prioritising trade deals with individual US states after Biden poured cold water on country-wide negotiations during Boris Johnson’s visit to the US last September.

Some US states, such as California, represent bigger markets for the UK than many countries.

California dreaming

According to the government, trade between the UK and California is worth $260bn a year, with the UK being California’s fifth largest export market in 2019.

The UK is targeting the state’s tech sector in trade talks.

Secure trade

Meanwhile, a major speech by Janet Yellen, the US Treasury secretary, indicates a shift in US trade policy to relink trade to values and achieve not just “free but secure trade”, reports the Irish Times.

Future markets should no longer be left to their own devices, she said, but they should uphold certain principles from national sovereignty and a rules-based order to security and labour rights.


In an address at the Atlantic Council in Washington, Yellen said: “We cannot allow countries to use their market position in key raw materials, technologies, or products to have the power to disrupt our economy or exercise unwanted geopolitical leverage.”

She also advanced the strategy of “friend-shoring,” where supply chains depend on allies rather than “countries where we have geopolitical tensions”, according to Bloomberg.  

No ‘sitting on fence’

She also reiterated that for nations “sitting on the fence” over the international effort to punish Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, specifically calling out China.

“China has recently affirmed a special relationship with Russia,” she said. “I fervently hope that China will make something positive of this relationship and help to end this war.”