07 December 2022

Trade minister tours US to strike state-level trade agreements

07 December 2022

Trade minister Greg Hands is touring the US to sign the UK’s third state-level trade agreement and seek closer ties with further individual states.

With a comprehensive post-Brexit trade deal with the US appearing some way off, Britain has been focusing on smaller state-by-state agreements.

Mr Hands begins his trip in South Carolina, where he will sign the UK’s third trade Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a US state after reaching deals with Indiana and North Carolina earlier this year.

We’re engaging with the US at every level – federal, state and local – to increase opportunities for UK businesses

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.

Mr Hands’ four-day trip also includes a stop in California, the largest US state economy.

In Utah, the minster will continue discussions on an MoU with a view to signing early next year.

Mr Hands said: “These MoU’s with US states can cover areas vital to the UK, from tech and renewable energy to financial and professional services.

“We’re engaging with the US at every level – federal, state and local – to 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.”

The state-by-state agreements are far less ambitious than the comprehensive transatlantic free trade deal touted by Brexit backers as a major benefit of leaving the EU during the 2016 referendum.

Such a deal would be highly valuable to the UK given the enormous potential of tapping into the US market, but progress on reaching one has stalled amid concerns in Washington about unresolved tensions over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

US President Joe Biden has previously expressed unease over the UK’s ongoing row with the EU over the treaty and the potential impact on the peace process.

The prospect of a UK-US trade deal did not come up in one-on-one talks between Rishi Sunak and Mr Biden at last month’s G20 summit in Bali.

The Prime Minister said he was nonetheless “filled with optimism” about Britain’s ability to do more trade with the world’s biggest economy.

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