The United States is urging Britain to open its agricultural markets to US traders as part of a new economic agreement that would fall just short of a free trade deal. Both countries have initiated discussions on a “foundational trade partnership,” which would cover topics like digital trade, labor protections, and agriculture. However, this partnership would not ensure specific access levels for service providers to sell their goods in each other’s countries, falling below the full free trade agreement promised by Brexit supporters. Potential challenges may arise, particularly concerning the agricultural sector, as previous talks had stalled due to disagreements over American food products like chlorine-washed chicken and hormone-injected beef, which the UK has resisted providing access to. Nevertheless, discussions between the UK and US are ongoing within the context of this unique agreement to further enhance their economic, technological, commercial, and trade relations.
In addition, there are plans for the UK to pursue a free trade agreement with India, which would be its most significant deal since leaving the EU and beginning its own negotiations. While the India deal remains a priority, work on the US agreement is set to commence in the new year, aiming for completion before the general elections in both countries. However, one consequence of this focus on the US agreement will be a slowdown in negotiations for separate deals with Canada and Mexico.
The main obstacle continues to be agriculture, with the environment department insisting that the UK should not open itself to American food products that fail to meet the country’s regulatory standards. Whether the prime minister will overrule this stance or risk the US walking away from negotiations remains uncertain.