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U.K. Trade Minister Aims to Strike “Mini” Deals with U.S. Individual States

Penny Mordaunt, U.K. Minister of Trade, toured several U.S. states to begin a discussion about trading with states individually. Mordaunt said as a country, the United States “has more to do to be ready for an FTA.” She now spends time negotiating with officials in California, New York and several other states and plans to negotiate trade deals with up to twenty states.

These conversations were sparked by President Biden’s hesitancy to discuss a trade deal with Prime Minister Boris Johnson during their meeting in September 2021. While the Prime Minister hoped to have an agreement set by 2024, he says that President Biden had “a lot of fish to fry” and is unable to commit. Seemingly in response, Mordaunt began meeting with state officials to discuss future agreements in December of 2021.

Mordaunt’s goals for the discussions include:

  • Identify ways to increase U.K. goods in the U.S. market
  • Solidify mutual qualifications of goods in technical, legal and other fields
  • Remove trade barriers

The most prominent goal of the agreements is to remove trade barriers between the UK and each state individually. While she is beginning with up to twenty states, Mordaunt said “We need to be doing this with, I think, everywhere in the U.S..” If the first several agreements turn out favorable for Mordaunt, this could shift what trade looks like for all states individually, rather than relying on the U.S. Federal Government agencies.

What would these agreements look like? While the deals would not cut tariffs or be legally binding (for now), Mordaunt says the benefits would include reducing costs and minimizing regulatory barriers. Although the agreements would not be Free Trade Agreements, Mordaunt is pushing what trade between the United Kingdom and United States can entail.

United States Secretary of the Treasury, Janet Yellen, has a much different perspective on what global trade should look like moving forward. Yellen says “Future markets should no longer be left to their own devices, but they should uphold certain principles from national sovereignty.” Yellen pushes to “modernize the multilateral approach” and “achieve free, but secure trade.” Her approach is to rely on our current trusted trade partners and continue to deepen our trade relationships with them.

While the United States government aims to stick to what (and who) they know, Mordaunt will continue to push for new and unique agreements. The Times reports that the first of U.K.’s agreements with individual states should be finalized in upcoming weeks.

Contributor: Audrey Silcox

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