UK minister sees ‘huge opportunities’ from trade pact with Florida

By Andrea Shalal and Alistair Smout

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – British Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis on Tuesday to boost trade and investment with the fourth largest U.S. state.

Badenoch said Britain was also making progress in talks with the U.S. federal government on a broader trade agreement.

She told Reuters in a telephone interview that she had “very, very good conversations” with U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai at a recent Group of Seven (G7) meeting on the broader deal, and “quite a lot” of issues had been agreed.

“We have a target to conclude very quickly. The last bits are often the trickiest bits,” she said. “But it’s going well.”

In June, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and U.S. President Joe Biden announced the Atlantic Declaration, an action plan for deepening economic, technological and commercial ties, and expanding trade from its current level of 310 billion pounds ($380 billion).

However, the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Britain had hoped for under previous President Donald Trump remains a distant prospect, with Biden having put all such talks on ice after taking office in 2021.

The Britain-Florida trade pact is designed to make it easier, quicker and cheaper for each other’s firms to do business, focusing on space, financial technology, artificial intelligence and legal services, as well as supply chains and logistics.

DeSantis met Badenoch during an April visit to London as part of an international tour shortly before he announced his bid to challenge Trump for the Republican nomination for president in the November 2024 election. Polls show Trump as the clear frontrunner for the nomination.

Trade between Britain and Florida is already worth more than 5 billion pounds ($6.14 billion) a year. Florida said UK companies account for more than 70,000 jobs in the state, making Britain the top foreign investor, with total holdings estimated at $18 billion.

Britain has signed similar pacts with six other states and

is in negotiations with several others.

“Florida is a major economy in its own right, with a bigger GDP than most European countries,” Badenoch said. “From launching satellites to developing the latest fintech software, Florida’s leading high-tech companies offer huge opportunities to the UK’s rapidly expanding tech sector.”

$1 = 0.8149 pounds)

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Additional reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Edwina Gibbs and Mark Heinrich)