UK Wants to Renew Push for US Trade Deal After Midterms

The MSC Laurence container ship
The MSC Laurence container ship, operated by Mediterranean Shipping Co., on the dockside at the Port of Felixstowe Ltd. in Felixstowe, U.K. (Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg)

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The U.K. is hoping to resume its free-trade negotiations with the Biden administration after the U.S. midterm elections later this year, the minister leading the push said Feb. 2.

With talks halted since Joe Biden took office last year, the U.K. is for now focusing on state-level negotiations, laying the regulatory groundwork for a future bilateral trade agreement, Secretary of State for International Trade Anne-Marie Trevelyan said in an interview in Jerusalem.

“We hope that may be after the midterms, when they want to pick up and talk about those federal-level bits of an FTA, we stand ready to carry on those conversations,” she said.

Those elections in the fall could transform the U.S. political landscape with Republicans favored to win back control of the House of Representatives.

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Britain is trying to secure new free-trade deals to help make up for a significant decline in commerce with its biggest trading partner, the European Union, since Brexit. The U.K. has already agreed pacts with New Zealand and Australia, and begun talks with India, but their expected impact is forecast to be strongly overshadowed by the negative drag from weaker EU trade.

A deal with the U.S., the U.K’s biggest single trading partner, has become bogged down amid Biden’s focus on his domestic agenda. It has been touted by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson as one of the great prizes of the Brexit campaign he spearheaded.

Trevelyan, who took over the trade portfolio in September, is on a three-day visit to Israel to formally launch negotiations on an enhanced deal between the two countries. She said an accord could over a period of time triple two-way commerce from around $6.8 billion now. It could especially boost trade in services, which currently make up more than 70% of both countries’ economies but less than half of the commerce between the two.

The U.K. signed stop-gap FTAs with a number of countries, including Israel, along the lines of the trade deals those countries had previously agreed with the EU. But Brexit offers the two countries the opportunity to tailor the deal to their bilateral relationship, according to Trevelyan.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, U.K. international trade secretary. (Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg)

“There’s a huge opportunity there for a really symbiotic relationship across services, digital, innovation, cyber, all those areas, to draw that all together and have a mutually beneficial FTA on a much, much bigger scale than the one we’re living with, which was just a rollover from the EU,” she said.

Trevelyan said the U.K. hoped to capitalize on Israel’s booming technology sector, which saw a 520% surge in the value of share offerings and M&A last year, with the total reaching almost $100 billion if follow-on transactions are counted, according to PwC.

The U.K is hoping to attract more Israeli companies to list and expand in the U.K, she said.

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