UK minister to sign trade pact with Florida Governor DeSantis

By Andrea Shalal and Alistair Smout

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – British Business and Trade Secretary Kemi Badenoch said she will sign 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 the Florida deal was Britain’s seventh with U.S. states, and 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, a national-level action plan for deepening economic, technological and commercial ties, and expanding bilateral trade from its current level of 310 billion pounds ($380 billion).

Badenoch said two countries’ trade teams were collaborating every day on a variety of global challenges such as China and ensuring more resilient supply chains, as well as working on a critical minerals agreement.

However, the sweeping 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.

Badenoch and DeSantis, a Republican presidential hopeful, will sign the deal in the Port of Jacksonville around midday (1700 GMT) Tuesday.

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, but could expand under the new memorandum.

Britain has signed similar pacts with the states of Indiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Utah and Washington. Together with Florida, they account for a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of 3.3 trillion pounds ($4 trillion).

Britain remains in negotiations with several other states including Texas, New York, California, Colorado and Illinois.

“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.”

DeSantis said the agreement would strengthen the partnership between his state and Britain.

Britain said the deal offered opportunities for its growing space sector since Florida is home to the NASA Kennedy Space Center and has major operations in launch infrastructure, manufacturing, and satellite development.

($1 = 0.8149 pounds)

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

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