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UK to sign trade deal with US state to get around Joe Biden’s stubborn attitude to talks

Trade minister Greg Hands is touring the US to boost Britain’s trade with American states. Having given up hope of signing a free trade deal with the White House, the UK is looking to sign a series of agreements at state level to ramp up imports and exports.

Mr Hands starts his trip in South Carolina, where he will sign the UK’s third trade Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with a US state.

Last year South Carolina bought £1.4billion of goods for the UK.

It is hoped the MoU will help to address state-specific trade barriers unlocking opportunities for UK firms to expand overseas and attract investment.

Mr Hands said: “These MoU’s with US states can cover areas vital to the UK, from tech and renewable energy to financial and professional services.

“We’re engaging with the US at every level – federal, state and local – to increase opportunities for UK businesses.

“Whether it’s successfully securing an expansive removal of Section 232 tariffs on imports of UK steel and aluminium into the US, signing MoUs with individual states or seeking recognition of professional qualifications, the UK is focused on delivering for British businesses and consumers.”

The MoU focuses on key sectors such as automotive – including electric vehicles – and life sciences.

UK specialist manufacturer Sigmatex, which has a US base in South Carolina, hailed the deal.

CEO Paul McMullan said: “As a UK company, we chose South Carolina as our preferred base in North America due to the many benefits offered by the State, including a strong labour pool, a fast-growing industrial sector and a business-friendly regulatory environment.

“The news of South Carolina and the UK agreeing an MoU on trade and economic development is very welcome indeed, and sure to bring further benefits to companies like Sigmatex who wish to have operations in the USA and specifically the State of SC.”

The US is already the UK’s largest trading partner with £230billion of business conducted each year, but ministers want to exploit the benefits of Brexit to further increase economic growth.

The new agreement comes after deals were struck with Indiana and North Carolina earlier this year.

Officials say talks are also underway with Texas, Oklahoma, Washington and Oregon.

Hopes of a US trade deal agreed at a federal level were dashed when Joe Biden became President, with the Democrat warning he would not enter talks while the UK and EU continue to row over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The prospect of a UK-US trade deal did not come up in one-on-one talks between Rishi Sunak and Mr Biden at last month’s G20 summit in Bali.

However, the Prime Minister remains confident about Britain’s ability to do more trade with the world’s biggest economy.

He said last month: “I am filled with optimism about our ability to do more trade with the US, to deepen our economic relationship.

“That can happen in lots of different ways.”

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