UK looks to individual US states after Biden goes cold on FTA

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Smaller-scale trade agreements could become a focus for Britain's trade approach in the US, it seems.

The UK is said to be looking to do business with individual US states rather than the nation as a whole after American president Joe Biden poured cold water on the idea of a bilateral free trade agreement.

In a statement delivered at the Chatham House Global Trade Conference last week, British trade minister Penny Mordaunt acknowledged that the UK's priority after Brexit had been a deal between the two countries.

However, she added: "We know the US has more to do to be ready for an FTA, but when they are, we will be waiting for them. We will be working in the US at state level in the meantime to forge closer economic and political bonds between us."

It is thought that some of the larger states such as California could be a priority under this micro-FTA approach, since they have especially large economies and offer potentially favorable conditions for businesses and traders.

Indeed, former international trade secretary Liz Truss had already met with governments on a state level earlier this year, including that of California. New York would also likely be a key point of focus given its importance as a trading hub.

Back in 2017, it had looked as though a free trade deal between Britain and the US was a foregone conclusion, with then-UK foreign secretary Boris Johnson telling the press: "We hear we're first in line."

US Republican senator Bob Corker appeared to echo this sentiment, saying such an agreement would be 'a priority' for the administration, as did former US president Donald Trump, a key supporter of Brexit.

However, since new president Joe Biden took office, negotiations have stalled considerably. At a recent meeting, Mr Biden even acknowledged he was not looking to close trade deals with any country, choosing instead to focus on revitalizing the US economy. 

With the idea of a far-reaching FTA apparently dead in the water at least for now, forging smaller deals with individual US states could be a way for Britain to make it easier for traders on both sides of the pond.