The top US diplomat in the UK told Sky News that a comprehensive free trade agreement between the UK and the US was “not the ultimate goal” of boosting trade between the two countries .
Speaking to Kay Burley, Ambassador Philip T. Reeker, Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy in London, said: “I think the focus right now is on the trade we have.
“$ 220 billion a year in goods and services, not to mention the $ 1.5 billion in two-way investments that create millions of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.”
Ambassador Reeker said that would be the goal while the president Joe biden focuses on the US economy and emerges from the COVID-19[female[feminine pandemic.
But he stressed: “I don’t think we should focus on the so-called trade deals as the whole and the end.”
Ambassador Reeker said the two countries “are working towards a number of new opportunities”, citing an agreement on new rules for importing lamb into the United States from the United Kingdom as an example of progress. .
“It’s a small step. But again, $ 220 billion a year in bilateral trade is a very important thing and we will seek to increase that,” he added.
Asked about the likelihood of a deal in the near future, the ambassador replied, “I think we just need to take it one step at a time.”
His comments follow Boris Johnson‘s trip to the United States, which saw him meet with President Biden at the White House and address the United Nations in New York.
During the visit, the Prime Minister seemed pessimistic about the prospects of an imminent breakthrough on a global trade pact.
Mr Johnson said he wanted to take “solid progressive steps” in improving trade between the two countries, and told reporters President Biden had “a lot of fish to fry”.
Asked by Sky News political editor Beth Rigby about the prospects for a full trade deal, Mr Johnson declined to commit to one before the next general election.
“The Biden administration is not making free trade deals around the world right now, but I have no doubts that there is a lot to be done,” the PM said in a clip released near the end of visit.
His comments this week differ significantly from what he said as Foreign Secretary in 2017, when Donald Trump was President of the United States.
At this point, Mr Johnson claimed the UK would be “first in line” for a deal.
There were awkward headlines for the Prime Minister when he was in the United States after one of his ministers, Environment Secretary George Eustice, Biden said do not appreciate “fully” details of the dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol and was “wrong” to worry about its potential impact.
The President had warned Mr Johnson during their discussions on the Oval Office that the dispute should not end with a “closed border” on the island of Ireland, Mr Biden having previously said that any impact on the process of peace would undermine hopes for a trade deal.
Asked about Mr Eustice’s comments, Ambassador Reeker said: “I think everyone will agree that the Good Friday accords, the Belfast Accord, which have brought and preserved peace in Northern Ireland for many years. Decades are vitally important.That’s the president’s point.
“There are ways to find a way through the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is of course separate from the Good Friday agreements, which can ensure that the importance of these agreements is preserved.”
Urged on whether the president understands protocol, he replied, “I think he certainly understands it.
“He made it very clear that it is important to keep the Good Friday agreements at the forefront and to preserve that.”