UK-US trade - what's the state of the 'special relationship'?

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With FTA talks off the table and recent frostiness between the Truss and Biden administrations, are trade relations between the UK and the US at a low ebb?

Those who campaigned for Brexit touted a new free trade agreement (FTA) with the United States (among other countries) as one of the biggest benefits of the UK leaving the European Union.

Nearly three years on from the country's official departure from the bloc, however, the UK has made little progress in negotiating an FTA with its transatlantic ally. Indeed, prime minister Liz Truss, who recently paid her first official visit to the US since taking office, has admitted that talks over a trade deal are not currently on the agenda.

Amid considerable challenges - including recession fears in both countries and friction over the post-Brexit Northern Ireland Protocol - what's the current picture for the so-called 'special relationship', and what could the future hold for trade?

No FTA talks in 'short to medium term'

Speaking ahead of her departure for the US, where she attended the UN General Assembly in New York, Ms Truss said: "There aren't currently any negotiations taking place with the US and I don't have an expectation that those are going to start in the short to medium term."

Previous statements from the UK government had suggested a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington could be possible by 2022.

The opposition Labour party has warned of the economic consequences of failing to reach an accord, saying the lack of a US trade deal is costing the UK billions of pounds in lost opportunities and "holding back growth".

Shadow international trade secretary Nick Thomas Symonds said: "The admission that there is no prospect of a trade deal with the US is terrible news for the UK economy."

Earlier this year, the UK signed a memorandum of understanding with Indiana, which represented its first trade deal with an individual US state. This was followed by a similar agreement with North Carolina.

However, opposition parties have argued such deals are no substitute for a full UK-US FTA.

Friction over the Northern Ireland Protocol

Another recent wrinkle in the relationship between these countries relates to Northern Ireland and the post-Brexit arrangements put in place to prevent disruption to trade across the Irish border.

London and Brussels both agreed to the Northern Ireland Protocol, but the UK later signaled its intention to change the terms of the deal, while Ms Truss was serving as foreign secretary in Boris Johnson's government.

The threat of unilateral action was roundly condemned by the EU and the US, particularly by president Joe Biden's Democratic party.

Bill Keating, a Democratic congressman from Massachusetts, told the BBC: "There's no question, and it's been clearly stated, that discussions on a bilateral trade agreement with the UK and the US would come to a halt because of this issue."

So what does the future hold?

Amid these recent challenges, and negligible progress in trade negotiations, it could certainly be argued that commercial ties between the US and the UK have weakened since Brexit. For the time being at least, it's clear that prospects for a new FTA between the countries are limited.

London has been keen to stress the value of its relationship with Washington. Trade secretary Kemi Badenoch used the recent Atlantic Future Forum as an opportunity to assert that the US is "our single most important trade, defense and security partner".

However, this may not reassure businesses and industries looking for more favorable trading arrangements between these developed economies.

British businesses are also having to contend with the pound's recent decline in value against the dollar. Sterling hit record lows against the American currency in September, bottoming out at approximately $1.05 on September 26th.

This is likely to provide a boost for exporters seeing increased demand from US buyers taking advantage of the strong dollar. For those reliant on imports from the US, however, the sudden fall in the value of the pound will mean increased costs and potentially higher prices for customers.

With both countries facing economic headwinds on a domestic and international level, other priorities are likely to take precedence over the advancement of FTA negotiations in the short to medium term.