Bilateral, Trilateral or – Quadrilateral? The UK-US Trade Relations in a Global Context

Holmes P, Morita-Jaeger M (2023) "Bilateral, Trilateral or Quadrilateral? -The UK-US Trade Relations in a Global Context", chapter in The Routledge Handbook of Transatlantic Relations pp292-307

Published 25 August 2023

This chapter explores the key driving forces of UK-US trade relations after the Brexit in a global context. We first overview bilateral trade relations. Second, we analyse economic and political factors that have shaped the UK’s position on the UK-US bilateral economic relationship. Then we assess international factors that impact the UK-US trade relations in a global strategic context. We first note that the UK and the US are linked by services trade and investment rather than participation in global value chains. We argue that the UK for a long time had a very effective position, economically tied to the EU but politically closely allied to both. Brexit was intended to replace the EU with links to the US. But its supporters overestimated the interest of the US in a trade agreement and underestimated US support for the all-Ireland elements in the EU withdrawal agreement. Even without this problem, there is no support in the US for a traditional FTA. For the UK, regulatory approximation with the US is fraught with difficulties. In the global context, promoting the US trade and security agendas in the Indo-Pacific region could be seen as a way to promote UK-US trade relations under the Biden administration. The future is unclear. If the UK returns to more economically motivated policies, it will seek closer relations with both the US and the EU. If the UK remains politically driven, it will not be able to secure an FTA with the US nor to realise “Global Britain”.

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