Britain signs trade accord with Washington state, eyes Florida next

By Alistair Smout and Andrea Shalal

LONDON/WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Britain on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding on trade with the U.S. state of Washington, and a top official said a similar agreement could be reached soon with Florida.

Britain had hoped for a sweeping bilateral trade deal with the United States after splitting from the European Union, but with President Joe Biden putting all talks on free trade agreements on hold, the British government has pursued state-level agreements instead.

“Florida is next on the list. That should be concluded shortly,” junior business and trade minister Nusrat Ghani told Reuters in a telephone interview from Seattle. Discussions were also underway in other big states – Texas, California, Colorado and Illinois, she said.

Ghani, traveling with some 70 business executives from 35 UK firms, said deepening trade ties with Washington and other U.S. states offered “a huge potential for collaboration” given overlapping industrial interests.

She said aerospace would be a priority sector under the Washington MoU, with Boeing being based in the state, but other areas for possible deals included clean energy, life sciences, supply chains and agriculture.

“There’s a huge amount of interest in aviation,” Ghani said, noting the big role British firms play in the aerospace supply chain.

Britain said the MoU would unlock new commercial partnerships and facilitate capital investment, but provisions of a formal free trade agreement (FTA) can only be negotiated with the federal government.

The MoU with Washington is the sixth such agreement with a U.S. state.

Ghani and the UK business executives attended a Boeing supplier showcase, meeting their procurement and supply chain teams.

Washington state is also the home of Amazon, Starbucks and Microsoft, and is the state with the 11th highest gross domestic product (GDP).

The six U.S. states covered by MoUs with Britain have a combined GDP of over 2 trillion pounds ($2.4 trillion), Britain said.

($1 = 0.8193 pounds)

(Reporting by Alistair Smout in London and Andrea Shalal in Washington; Editing by William James and Sonali Paul)

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