Trade minister Greg Hands is to sign the UK’s third state-level trade agreement during a visit to the US that starts today (07 December).
Hands will ink a trade Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with South Carolina during his trip, following deals with Indiana and North Carolina earlier this year.
The MoU aims to create opportunities for UK businesses by breaking down trade barriers, promoting trade missions to the south-eastern US state, and boost automotive and life sciences exports, the Department for International Trade said.
California and Utah bound
The minister’s four-day trip also includes a stop in California, one of the largest economies in the world, and Utah, where he will continue discussions on an MoU with a view to signing early next year, reports the Independent.
Hands said the MoUs with US states covered areas vital to the UK, from tech and renewable energy to financial and professional services, and would increase opportunities for UK businesses.
“Whether it’s successfully securing an expansive removal of Section 232 tariffs on imports of UK steel and aluminium into the US, signing MoUs with individual states or seeking recognition of professional qualifications, the UK is focused on delivering for British businesses and consumers,” he said.
Post-Brexit, the UK had hoped to sign a comprehensive free trade deal with the US, but the prospects dimmed when Joe Biden became president amid concerns in Washington about unresolved tension over the Northern Ireland Protocol, reports National News.
Instead, the UK has pivoted towards the state-level approach and securing piecemeal removal of barriers to trade.
Earlier this year, former trade minister Penny Mordaunt claimed that state-level deals could pave the way for nationwide talks with the White House, as covered in the IOE&IT Daily Update.
The DIT said the MoU will bolster Britain’s trading partnership with South Carolina, which bought £1.4bn of goods from the UK last year and could benefit exporters such as specialist manufacturer Sigmatex.
Paul McMullan, CEO of Sigmatex said it chose South Carolina as its North American base due to benefits such as a strong labour pool, a fast-growing industrial sector and a business-friendly regulatory environment.
“The news of South Carolina and the UK agreeing an MoU on trade and economic development is very welcome indeed, and sure to bring further benefits to companies like Sigmatex who wish to have operations in the USA and specifically the State of SC,” he added.