By Toris Smith, Director of International Economic Policy, American Action Forum
Most expected a simple road to a trade agreement between the United States and UK, as the countries are close allies. In October 2018, the Trump Administration notified Congress of its intent to negotiate a free trade agreement with the UK. At the time, Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) was still in effect, which would have allowed for expedited consideration of the agreement in Congress.
The Office of the United States Trade Representative released negotiating objectives in February 2019 and five negotiating rounds were held between the two countries in 2020. These negotiations did not result in a final agreement for the president to sign.
President Biden took office in early 2021 and the administration had a clear policy position that it would not seek new trade agreements “before the U.S. makes major investments in American workers and our infrastructure.” Then, in July, TPA expired and an FTA with the United Kingdom went from a top priority for the United States to not a priority at all.
In lieu of broader negotiations, the UK has signed memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with three U.S. states: Indiana, North Carolina, and South Carolina. While these MOUs lack enforcement mechanisms and are not legally binding, they encourage bilateral investment and market cooperation in climate emissions and technology, underinvested sectors, and public procurement.