BALI, LONDON — Rishi Sunak and Joe Biden had plenty of things to talk about at the G20 — but a coveted post-Brexit U.K.-U.S. trade deal wasn’t one of them.
The U.K. has long hoped to land a comprehensive free-trade deal with the U.S., but the prospects of doing so have faded under the Biden administration and the two sides are now looking at other ways to boost business between the two countries.
“We didn’t discuss the trade deal in particular, but we did discuss our economic partnership,” Sunak told POLITICO following a meeting with Biden at the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Bali, Indonesia, Wednesday.
“There’s a range of economic cooperation that is happening and can continue to happen in the future,” Britain’s prime minister added, saying he is “filled with optimism about our ability to do more trade with the U.S. to deepen our economic relationship.”
“That can happen in lots of different ways,” Sunak said.
Britain’s approach to the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol, tricky relations with the EU, and the U.S.’s shifting trade priorities to focus on China have put a U.K.-U.S. deal much further down the list of priorities.
During a visit to Washington this week, Sunak’s Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch said Britain “shouldn’t get too hung up” on the idea of negotiating free-trade agreements since there are other ways of expanding trade.
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Badenoch’s predecessor pledged in April to develop an “ambitious roadmap” for future trade talks between the United States and the U.K. “over the next several weeks.” But nearly seven months later, none has emerged. Speaking at the Cato Institute on Monday, Badenoch said she hoped the U.S. and U.K. can return to that idea.
In the absence of talks for a larger bilateral deal, Britain has pursued a strategy of striking small-scale services agreements with individual states such as Indiana, North Carolina and Oklahoma to reduce trade barriers.
The U.K. Department for International Trade insists it is maintaining this strategy and that it hopes to strike pacts with further states like South Carolina soon.