Trade deals with America on the horizon for Portsmouth as Penny Mordaunt lands a series of wins in the US

TRADE minister Penny Mordaunt has been banging the drum for Portsmouth businesses during her diplomatic trip to America in a bid to try and bag lucrative deals for city firms.

By Tom Cotterill
Tuesday, 21st December 2021, 11:50 am
Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP, has been fighting for lucrative trade deals between US states and the Solent during a trip to America.
Penny Mordaunt, Portsmouth North MP, has been fighting for lucrative trade deals between US states and the Solent during a trip to America.

The Portsmouth North MP has been laying the groundwork for a post-Brexit free trade deal between Britain and the US as part of her latest overseas venture.

Her stint across the pond has seen the Tory MP targeting states rarely visited by British ministers like Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and Oklahoma – who might be ‘interested in doing something different’.

And so far, Ms Mordaunt says the talks have proven fruitful as she has agreed to process memoranda of understanding with four states.

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It’s hoped these new agreements could pave the way for new trade deals, helping to cut away the bureaucratic red tape which has bogged down international discussions.

Crucially, the new links could also help slash the costs to businesses when agreeing import and export terms.

On top of securing the agreements, Ms Mordaunt has also been in discussion with American trade bodies to see how Solent firms can play a greater role in the US.

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The minister has been championing Portsmouth companies involved in the defence sector, green tech or renewable energy, entertainment, security, cyber, sport, culture and gaming.

And she has been promoting the area’s maritime trade and new Solent Freeport status in a bid to drum up interest from companies in the US who may want to set up trade and supply links with Portsmouth.

Speaking to The News from the US, Ms Mordaunt said the discussions in America could be huge for city businesses.

‘Portsmouth has for several years achieved the largest amount of monthly export sales of any place in the UK,’ she said.

‘We are incredibly entrepreneurial and can out-compete anyone. By getting these state-level agreements to reduce bureaucracy and the costs of doing business, as well as getting a trade agreement at a federal level, we will be helping our businesses do more in the US market.

‘It is a really exciting time.’

The news has been tentatively welcomed by business leaders in Hampshire.

Ross McNally, chief executive and chairman of the Hampshire Chamber of Commerce, said businesses would want ‘to see real advantages, not just aspirations, coming from ministers’ efforts to secure trade deals with other countries’.

‘This is a time when companies here in Hampshire and across the UK are under the most enormous pressure,’ he added.

‘Our members remain amazingly resilient in navigating their way through the impact of the pandemic and the huge supply chain disruption that has caused.

‘Some also complain of added bureaucracy from Brexit hampering their arrangements for getting products to export markets and sourcing essential components from abroad.

‘Our members will no doubt welcome any moves to make trading with a big partner such as the US easier, but given the economic challenges we face, they will want to see the government achieve tangible success rather than just articulate hopes.’

It’s hoped the new memoranda could be signed by spring or summer.

In the meantime, Ms Mordaunt has insisted she will continue to deepen talks in the US come the New Year.

‘I will be returning to the US in the new year and will be pursuing state-level discussions with other states including those with much larger economies including Texas and California,’ she said.

‘This is all about reconnecting with the US and deepening the ties we have.’

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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