London, United Kingdom, Sept 22 – Britain on Wednesday said it was eyeing membership of an existing trade deal between the United States, Canada, and Mexico, as hopes faded for an immediate separate agreement with washington’
US President Joe Biden on Tuesday made no commitment to a free trade deal with the United Kingdom while meeting visiting Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has vaunted the UK’s ability to seal its own alliances post-Brexit.
While London’s “preference is that we have a bilateral trade agreement”, it does not “rule anything out”, Environment Minister George Eustice told Sky News when asked if it would consider joining an existing trade pact between the United States, Mexico and Canada.
The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) came into effect last year, replacing the previous North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
Johnson had downplayed hopes for a quick deal before meeting Biden at the White House, telling The Sun tabloid as he travelled to Washington that “Joe has a lot of fish to fry”.
At their meeting, Biden said the deal that Britain is pushing for was “continuing to be discussed”.
Britain’s newly appointed foreign minister Liz Truss had reportedly raised stalled negotiations with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken when they met in New York on Monday.
“We still very much hope to be able to put together an agreement with the US”, Eustice said, while admitting: “It’s just not been a priority for the US administration”.
Johnson told Sky News in the US on Tuesday that Britain was “going to go as fast as we can” while refusing to commit himself to securing a deal by the next election in 2024.
Eustice said that the UK was “not putting timescales” on a deal, while it would ideally like to secure this before the next election.
“There’s not a particular rush to do that. With any trade agreement it’s better to get the details in the agreement right rather than being in a rush,” Eustice said.
US Democrat Senator Brendan Boyle tweeted: “About 30% of US trade is with Canada & Mexico. China accounts for another 13%. As for the UK, it is 2.5%, the same as Taiwan, Vietnam, & India. So when some are confused why a trade deal with the UK isn’t a high priority, now you know.”