Rishi Sunak’s visit to Washington was not a chance for the UK to sign a US trade agreement

Rishi Sunak will ignore the calls for a UK-US deal next week when he travels to Washington to meet with President Joe Biden.

The Covid-19 pandemic, and other issues like whether or not to allow certain US agricultural products to enter the UK market, derailed talks to strike a post Brexit trade agreement.

Members of the US Congress hoped the negotiations would be revived following the deal that Britain and the EU made earlier this year over trade arrangements in Northern Ireland, which removed a major source of tension between Washington DC and London.

Brendan Boyle (a Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania) said in March he hoped that trade discussions would take place “in short time” as a consequence of the agreement, although the Biden Administration has not prioritized forming full-scale trade deals with other nations.

Downing Street stated on Tuesday that the Prime Minister was not attempting to negotiate a trade deal when announcing Sunak’s visit to the US. They pointed out that the bilateral trading relationship between the two countries is already strong.

A spokesperson for Number Ten said, “We do not seek to pursue a trade agreement with the US.” It’s important to remember that the current trade relationship is already worth PS279bn. “We have achieved all that without an FTA.”

The spokesperson stated that the government will seek to form closer partnerships with certain states including Utah, Texas and California. The UK has signed agreements with North Carolina, Indiana and South Carolina.

The state-by-state agreement is typically a “memorandum of understanding”, which aims to reduce paperwork and trade barriers while promoting collaboration in areas like clean tech and energy infrastructure.

US states don’t have the authority to reach full trade agreements with other sovereign countries. Therefore, piecemeal deals with individual states could be less profitable for UK businesses than an approved full-scale trade agreement by Congress, which would include eliminating tariff barriers.

A US National Security Council official said that a free-trade agreement was not part of the agenda at the meeting between Biden, Sunak and the two men. Instead, they were to discuss the strengthening of economic ties.

In March last year, Washington and the UK agreed to lower tariffs on steel and aluminum as they sought to settle a trade dispute that dated back to Trump’s presidency.

Downing Street stated that Sunak’s Wednesday and Thursday visit would give the two countries a chance to “cooperate and coordinate” on topics such as securing supply chain and moving to zero-carbon.

It will be an opportunity for us to continue our support of Ukraine, as we build upon the success of the G7 Summit in preparation for the Nato summit scheduled in July.”

On the agenda are meetings with leaders in business and members of Congress.

Nick Thomas-Symonds said that Sunak’s visit was evidence of the “broken promises after broken promises from this Conservative Government on Trade”.

He said: “Rishi Sunak’s 2019 manifesto promised a US deal by the end 2022, but now it’s clear that talks haven’t started and the Tories aren’t interested in pursuing one.”

Sunak and Biden met in recent months in San Diego, Belfast and Japan.

The UK has not had any bilateral trade agreements for 40 years that it has been a member of the EU, because all policies for members states are handled through Brussels.

This week, two of the free trade agreements that it has signed with Australia and New Zealand will come into effect.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean Pierre said that the two leaders will discuss “efforts in continuing to strengthen our economic relationship”, and they will also “review development in Northern Ireland”.