UK trade deal with US ‘has not been priority’ Rishi Sunak admits

The Prime Minister will meet President Joe Biden during his trip to Washington - but not presidential hopeful Donald Trump

David Hughes
Wednesday 07 June 2023 22:37 BST
Rishi Sunak meets with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy

A full-blown trade deal with the US has not been a priority for a while, Rishi Sunak has acknowledged ahead of talks with Joe Biden.

The prospect of a transatlantic deal was viewed as one of the key potential benefits of Brexit, but Donald Trump’s defeat by Joe Biden saw hopes of a deal fade.

The Prime Minister said: “I think that for a while now, that has not been a priority for either the US or UK.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks to the media during his visit to Washington DC in the US (PA Wire)

Mr Sunak suggested “specific and targeted ways” of improving trade between the two nations were still being considered.

The UK has also pushed ahead with trade talks with individual states.

Speaking to reporters on his trip to Washington, Mr Sunak said the UK and US were focused on “making sure that our economic partnership reflects the particular challenges and opportunities of the time that we’re in right now”.

He added: “That involves not just trade but also economic security, which is increasingly important.

“But when it does come to trade, what we have been doing with the US, we are looking at specific and targeted ways to improve trade between our countries.

“It’s also worth saying that we already have an unbelievably strong trading relationship with the US.”

Mr Sunak said he would not meet presidential hopeful Donald Trump during the trip (AP)

Asked whether the idea of a trade deal had been an unrealistic promise, Mr Sunak replied: “Since I’ve been Prime Minister, we’ve been focused, as have the US, on making sure that our economic partnership reflects the opportunities and challenges of the time that we face now.”

It comes as Mr Sunak suggested a “busy schedule” meant he was not seeking a meeting with Donald Trump while in the US.

The Prime Minister will meet President Joe Biden, who defeated Mr Trump in 2019, at the White House on Thursday and has already held talks with senior political figures in Congress.

Mr Trump is widely seen as the frontrunner to secure the Republican nomination to run for president again in 2024, with Ron DeSantis viewed as his main rival.

Mr DeSantis met two members of Mr Sunak’s Cabinet – James Cleverly and Kemi Badenoch – during a trip to the UK in April, forcing Downing Street to deny any favouritism for the Florida governor over the former president.

Mr Sunak was asked why he was not seeking a meeting with Mr Trump during his visit to Washington.

The Prime Minister said: “I’m meeting key congressional leaders from both sides and obviously the president. Those are the key engagements that I have.”

Pushed on why he was not seeking a meeting with Mr Trump he added: “I’ve got a pretty busy schedule as it is.”

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