NEW YORK — On the eve of her arrival in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, Liz Truss admitted a U.K. trade deal with the United States is unlikely to happen for many years to come.
The British prime minister, who flew to the U.S. directly after attending Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral, told journalists on the plane in answer to a question on trade: ”There [aren’t] currently any negotiations taking place with the U.S. and I don’t have an expectation that those are going to start in the short to medium term.”
She said her “number one issue” for discussion with U.S. President Joe Biden was “global security and making sure that we are able to collectively deal with Russian aggression.”
The pair are expected to meet Wednesday as world leaders assemble at the U.N. headquarters.
Accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and securing a deal with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) are Truss’ top trade targets, she said when pressed on a time frame.
A U.S.-U.K. trade deal was once trumpeted as a post-Brexit prize by politicians in London but now looks a very distant prospect with the Biden administration unwilling to move before the next presidential election, if at all.
The British government has long been managing expectations on this front, but Truss’ comments marked the frankest admission yet that such an agreement is beyond their reach.
A No. 10 official said Truss’ change of message reflected “the reality that Biden is not doing any deals.”
They added that the U.K. did not want the offer of a deal to be a “sword of Damocles” hanging over negotiations on the Northern Ireland protocol, which the U.S. could withdraw if Washington objected to the British position.
Truss’ aides pointed to U.S. state-level deals already struck, which so far number only two: Indiana and North Carolina, while a strategic partnership compact has been signed with the state of Georgia.
Downing Street confirmed Truss was still aiming for a Diwali deadline — late October — for an agreement with India, something U.K. businesses have warned against.
Industry leaders fear Truss could rush into a deal with New Delhi for the sake of a “quick win” as she seeks to steady Britain against a backdrop of economic turmoil.
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