The UK should set its sights below a “grand trade deal” with the US, said Jane Hartley, Washington’s ambassador in London, citing the election cycle in both countries as a likely obstacle to broader ambitions.
“If you’re asking me my advice, I would look for smaller things as opposed to a grand trade deal, because we’re going to run out of time,” Hartley told Bloomberg TV on Wednesday. “There have been many meetings that have been positive especially on small business, professional accreditation, things like that. So I think, especially given the strength of the service sector here, I think there’s a lot that we could do.”
A free trade deal with the US was touted by British politicians as one of the benefits of taking the UK out of the European Union, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak campaigned for. But progress stalled when President Joe Biden took office, and the British side has now essentially stopped talking about an FTA.
Electoral pressure is playing a part on both sides. The US presidential vote in November 2024 could also coincide with Britons going to the polls, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak must ensure happens by January 2025.
UK Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch has been trying to boost trade in different sectors that will ultimately yield a deal in “all but name.” That includes seeking a formal agreement covering areas that were largely concluded in talks when Donald Trump was in the White House, such as enhancing opportunities for small and medium-sized enterprises.
Further stages include negotiating market access and the reduction or removal of tariffs. The UK will also propose more favorable terms for local businesses that could be impacted by Biden’s package of clean-energy subsidies and tax breaks in the Inflation Reduction Act.
During the interview, Hartley also praised the UK’s role in helping Ukraine counter Russia’s invasion. She was speaking against the backdrop of a meeting between North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and President Vladimir Putin, which could focus on weapons deals that help the Kremlin’s assault, the US has said.
Hartley said the US has repeatedly called on Putin to halt his aggression, and that she hopes China could also have a role in applying pressure to end the invasion. It would be welcome for “anybody” to bring nations to the table to talk about peace, she said.