Skip to main content

US State-level Market Barriers

Volume 727: debated on Thursday 9 February 2023

2. What recent discussions she has had with her US counterpart on reducing market barriers at the state level in the US. (903564)

We are taking tangible steps to improve our trade relationship with our largest bilateral trading partner, the United States. We have already signed state-level memorandums of understanding with Indiana, and North and South Carolina, which we are using to address barriers and promote British business in priority areas such as procurement, renewable energy, automotive, and life sciences. Together, those states imported more than £3.3 billion of UK goods in 2021. In December, the previous Minister for Trade Policy met counterparts in California to discuss an MOU, and counterparts in Utah to advance our talks. We are also making progress with Oklahoma and Texas, alongside our regular engagement with states across the US.

I welcome my hon. Friend’s answer, particularly the priority areas he outlined. However, from financial services to online shopping, digital trade is at the heart of doing business with our closest ally—the United States. Will my hon. Friend update the House on the progress made on removing barriers specific to such digital trade with individual states?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the importance of the digital economy. We very much see digital trade as an excellent area to focus on, deepening ties between the US and the UK. As part of that, we are keen to explore where we might be able to facilitate co-operation and promote digital trade with the US at state level. Further, the US-UK trade dialogues in Baltimore and Aberdeen last year helped to identify a range of trade-related areas for the two countries to collaborate on, and we agreed to strengthen further our bilateral trade in a range of areas, including on digital trade.

After failing to get a trade deal with the United States, the Government have resorted to signing non-binding agreements with separate US states. The Minister’s answer to the hon. Member for Buckingham (Greg Smith) on the different sectors was interesting, but the Government have refused to confirm what economic benefits these agreements will bring to the UK economy. I give the Minister another chance: will he tell me what value in pounds and pence these agreements will bring to our economy?

Again, I am somewhat disappointed that the Opposition are talking down the opportunities we have. These MOUs seek to bolster the already strong trading relationships with US states, which, as I said, are worth £3.3 billion of UK goods. As we move through and implement the MOUs—we have good faith and goodwill with the people we have been negotiating with—we will inevitably increase our trade volumes. The US is already our strongest and most important trading partner, accounting for about 16% of the UK’s overall trade, and growing.

In my constituency, companies are able to sell to Europe, the far east, South Africa and south America, but they have difficulty selling their products—foodstuffs that come from our farms across Strangford in Northern Ireland—to the US. Will the Minister give some indication of what can be done in conjunction with the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland to open those doors to sales?

We are fighting for opportunities right across the UK. As I said, the US is a really important trading partner. With the MOUs, we are seeking further opportunities, but we are also working on removing trade barriers and inhibitions to trade. For example, since leaving the EU, we have secured major trade deals with the US, reinstating beef and lamb imports and ending damaging steel and aluminium tariffs, so we are working in individual sectors to try to find further opportunities at both state and federal level.